COVID-19 vaccine chaos: Do you think you can get one?
Updated 21:44, 02-Feb-2021
Facts Tell

The world cheered when the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines finally began to be rolled out.

Less than two months later, however, the production, transportation, and distribution of the vaccines have already been teetering in disarray.

A worldwide battle for COVID-19 vaccines

Some vaccine companies have repeatedly stressed their capacity. The reality, however, is that their limited productivity makes many countries scramble for their share.

Let's take the European Union (EU) as an example.

Recently, Pfizer has told some EU member states that the amount of vaccines it promised to offer this week has to be halved.

To make matters worse, AstraZeneca, which developed the coronavirus vaccine with Oxford University, told the EU that "it intends to supply considerably fewer doses in the coming weeks than agreed and announced," according to a press statement by the EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides.

An EU official told Reuters that this would mean a 60 percent cut, from a projected 80 million doses to an eventual 31 million.

Not surprisingly, the EU is furious about it.

"Europe invested billions to help develop the world's first COVID-19 vaccines," EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at the World Economic Forum's virtual event. "And now, the companies must deliver. They must honor their obligations."

European Commission spokesperson Eric Mamer further accused that vaccine "doses are being delivered elsewhere." To respond forcefully to the cuts, the EU then announced that it would conduct rigorous inspections of vaccine exports.

"In the future, all companies producing vaccines against COVID-19 in the EU will have to provide early notification whenever they want to export vaccines to third countries," said Kyriakides in the press statement. She then put an increased emphasis that "the European Union will take any action required to protect its citizens and rights."

With fears that this move could lead to restrictions on vaccine exports, according to BBC, the United Kingdom's Minister for Covid Vaccine Deployment Nadhim Zahawi warned of "the dead-end of vaccine nationalism."

Rich countries "hoard" coronavirus vaccines

U.S. President Joe Biden recently announced the U.S. was buying 200 million more COVID-19 vaccine doses. With this order, America will have purchased 600 million doses in total, which means that it will lock in the number of vaccines to fully vaccinate almost all Americans in early fall.

Countries like Canada and the UK have already reserved more than three times what's needed to inoculate their population, according to Bloomberg's vaccine tracker, while many other countries are struggling to get even the first dose.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has urged developed countries to "stop being selfish by restricting vaccine exports or prioritizing their citizens" at an online meeting of the World Economic Forum's Davos Agenda, according to KBS news, while the country has yet to authorize the use of a coronavirus vaccine, or even receive a single dose of it.

What is true of South Korea, a high-income country, is even truer for those less wealthy.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa publicly called rich countries to stop "hoarding" coronavirus vaccines so that other countries can have access to them at the same meeting. Earlier, a South African factory is reported to have the capability of producing a million doses of the coronavirus vaccine, but none is left for locals, according to the New York Times. They will all be "rushed to" Western developed countries, where hundreds of millions of orders have already been booked.

"The world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure" over the distribution of vaccines, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has thus warned. "And the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world's poorest countries."

Chaotic management wastes vaccines

Most tragically, for some countries that are stockpiling coronavirus vaccines, their chaotic management means that many vaccines are never really available to the public.

Recently, Michigan health officials confirmed that nearly 12,000 Moderna vaccines got too cold and rendered useless while on route to the state. And a delay in the federal government's distribution of vaccines also forced New York City to temporarily close some of its COVID-19 vaccination hubs.

In Canada, it's a different story, but with the same ending. 

Sufficient vaccine purchases meant Canada has less to worry about than other countries, but its poor distribution system left Ontario with 40 percent of its vaccines still kept in freezers, while much-needed long-term care homes were not fully vaccinated, according to the Washington Post.

There are also cases of people taking advantage of the chaotic management or their positions.

In the U.S., healthcare personnel, residents of long-term care facilities, the elderly, people with underlying medical conditions, and other essential workers have priority access.

But a New York health care provider, ParCare Community Health Network, has been accused of fraudulently obtaining coronavirus vaccine doses, bypassing the most vulnerable, and administering them to the members of the public.

Another American vaccination site once announced that it was running out of vaccines on New Year's Eve, even though there was still a large line of people waiting to be vaccinated, according to NBC affiliate WRCB-TV. In the evening, however, the reporter found that some people were leaving the site, saying that their family members or friends working at the site had contacted them that the vaccine was still available and asked them to come.

"We have got the contacts," one driver exclaimed when a WRCB reporter asked how he got the vaccine. The reporter was then told that all seven people in the vehicle had been vaccinated.

Just as Americans worry about those with power, money, and connections finding their way to skip the line, others across the world find similar problems. 

Spain's top general has recently resigned amid public anger over allegations he jumped the queue for vaccination.

A large number of countries are still struggling to get their first vaccine does in the face of dwindling supplies. When some countries stockpile vaccines but fail to deliver them properly, do they wonder what people in other countries are feeling?

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