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AP reveals the inside story of glaring vaccine inequity globally

A hospital worker receives one of the Nigeria’s first coronavirus vaccinations, using the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and provided through the global COVAX vaccine program, at Yaba Mainland hospital in Lagos, March 12, 2021. AP’s reporting reUrgent calls for COVID-19 vaccine fairness rang through African countries on Friday as more welcomed or rolled out doses from the global COVAX initiative, with officials acutely aware their continent needs much more. (AP Photo / Sunday Alamba)

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Paris-based global enterprise writer Lori Hinnant, London-based medical writer Maria Cheng and New Delhi health and science correspondent Aniruddha Ghosal turned a year spent tracking global vaccine distribution into an authoritatively sobering assessment: A grotesque vaccine disparity has emerged between rich and poor countries, at a scale even experts who’d warned of inequitable distribution hadn’t envisioned.

Tapping connections worldwide, including officials and bankers who participated in key behind-the-scenes vaccine discussions in Europe and the U.S., the AP trio found that negotiators acknowledged they could have made bigger demands of pharmaceutical companies — but that it was now too late. They also learned that the United Nations’ vaccine procurement effort simply did not have the cash to make deals when rich countries were buying up all the supplies, while pleas for funding to the World Bank and others were rejected.

What emerged was a richly reported piece that lays out the specific reasons behind the glaring disparities and contradicts the sweeping pandemic rhetoric about global solidarity: European and American officials deeply involved in bankrolling and distributing the vaccines told the AP there was no thought of how to handle the situation globally. Instead, they jostled for their own domestic use.

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People look for answers after being turned away at a government hospital while seeking vaccination against COVID-19 in Harare, Zimbabwe, July, 10, 2021. About 6% of the population in Zimbabwe has received one dose of the coronavirus vaccine amid a surge of the delta variant, first seen in India. – AP Photo / Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi
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