January 26, 2021
It is more than a bit bizarre that the New York Times can run a major piece about the lack of access of developing countries to Covid vaccines and never once mention the vaccines developed by China, Russia, or India. The piece is very useful in highlighting the fact that the United States and Europe have secured the vast majority of the 2021 production of the vaccines developed by western drug companies, leaving relatively few doses for the developing world. As a result, developing countries may continue to be afflicted by the pandemic well into 2022, with enormous human and economic costs.
That is an important story that needs to be told, but another aspect of this picture is that China, Russia, and India are making vaccines available to many countries in the developing world. China is the leader, with two vaccines that have been approved in at least one country for emergency use. Indonesia, the Philippines, Brazil, and Mexico are some of the countries that are already receiving one of the Chinese vaccines. The country has made broader commitments to provide the vaccine to poor countries in Sub-Saharan Africa but has not yet made large amounts available.
Similarly, Russia and India have both developed vaccines that they have pledged to share with other countries. Neither has completed Phase 3 trials yet, although they are already being used in Russia, India, and elsewhere under an emergency use authorization.
All three countries have been reluctant to share data from clinical trials, which makes it impossible to know how effective they are in preventing the spread of the pandemic and the risks of side-effects. Nonetheless, if developing countries are unable to get access to the vaccines developed by western drug companies, it is likely that they will turn to the vaccines developed by these three countries. This is a very important part of the reality for developing countries and it is striking that the NYT piece never mentioned the prospect of them turning to China, Russia, and India for vaccines.
This article first appeared on Dean Baker’s Beat the Press blog.