First COVID-19 impact report on global vaccine markets

First Impact Report of COVID-19 on Global Vaccine Markets

A 2022 WHO report is the first to describe the impact of COVID-19 on the global vaccine market, identifying that low-income countries are struggling to access essential vaccines.

First Impact Report of COVID-19 on Global Vaccine Markets

The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Vaccines Market Report 2022, the first report to examine the impact of COVID-19 on the global vaccines market, shows that inequitable distribution is not unique to COVID-19 vaccines, with poorer countries constantly struggling to access vaccines demanded by wealthier countries.

The WHO said limited vaccine supplies and unequal distribution are at the root of global inequities. The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for cervical cancer has only been introduced in 41% of low-income countries (LICs), despite accounting for most cases of the virus, compared to 83 % of high-income countries (PRA).

The report found affordability was another barrier to vaccine access. While prices tend to be tiered by income, price disparities mean that middle-income countries (MICs) pay the same or even more than wealthier countries for several vaccine products.

“The right to health includes the right to vaccines,” commented Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. “And yet, this new report shows that free market dynamics deprive some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people of this right. WHO calls for much-needed changes in the global vaccine market to save lives, prevent disease and prepare for future crises.

The impact of COVID-19 on access to vaccines

The document showed that in 2021, around 16 billion doses of vaccines, worth $141 billion, were supplied by 47 vaccines and 94 manufacturers. That’s nearly three times the market volume of 2019 ($5.8 billion), nearly three and a half times the market value of 2019 ($38 billion). This surge was primarily driven by COVID-19 vaccines, demonstrating the potential for rapid scale-up of vaccine manufacturing in response to health needs. For example, a process that took an average of ten years but never less than four years was reduced to 11 months.

The WHO noted that although manufacturing capacity around the world has increased, it remains highly concentrated. Ten manufacturers worldwide provide 70% of vaccine doses (excluding COVID-19). Several of the 20 most widely used vaccines, such as vaccines containing PCV, HPV, measles and rubella, currently depend mainly on two suppliers. She observed that this concentration can create risks of regional supply shortages and insecurity.

Reaching the goals of the 2030 Immunization Agenda

The report highlighted opportunities for better alignment of vaccine development, production and distribution with a public health agenda, with a view to achieving the goals of the Immunization Agenda 2030 (IA2030) and inform pandemic prevention, preparedness and response efforts.

To take ambitious action to ensure equitable access to vaccines, the report calls on governments to:

  • Support the development of clear immunization plans, more aggressive investments, and stronger oversight of vaccine development, production, and distribution
  • Acting on regional research and manufacturing hubs
  • Agree in advance on the rules of government collaboration in the event of a shortage on the distribution of vaccines, intellectual property and the movement of inputs and goods.

The report recommends that industry focus its research efforts on WHO priority pathogens, ensuring transparency, facilitating technology transfer and committing to specific allocation measures based on equity . He encouraged international organizations and partners to prioritize the IA2030 goals, support national initiatives and push for the implementation of market transparency resolutions.

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