The world has reached the milestone of administering one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines, just four months after the World Health Organization (WHO) approved the first vaccine for emergency use, and roll-outs began in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. The speed at which they have been administered is remarkable, but unequal distribution of the vaccinations highlights global disparities, say researchers.
“It is an unprecedented scientific achievement. Nobody could have imagined that, within 16 months of the identification of a new virus, we would have vaccinated one billion people worldwide with a variety of different vaccines, using different platforms and made in different countries,” says Soumya Swaminathan, the WHO’s chief scientist, based in Geneva, Switzerland.
As of 27 April, 1.06 billion doses had been given to 570 million people, which means that about 7.3% of the world’s population of 7.79 billion have received at least one dose. But scientists say that more than 75% of the world’s population will need to be vaccinated to bring the pandemic under control.
Global vaccine manufacturers are scaling up production to meet demand, but this might take another 6–12 months to achieve, he says. Nevertheless, we are likely to hit the two-billion mark much faster than we hit the first billion, adds Swaminathan.