There are now enough Covid vaccine doses to meet the World Health Organisation’s  (WHO) goal to distribute the vaccine fairly among poorer nations, according to Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla.

The Covax scheme, which was set up by WHO to ensure equitable global access to the Covid vaccine, aims to inoculate at least 20% of the population of low to middle income countries. It has set a target to reach 10% by the end of September this year, which Bourla claims is now feasible, according to a report in the Financial Times.

Bourla said that 41% of Pfizer’s Covid vaccine would be delivered to low- and middle-income countries by the end of the year, which amounts to a donation by the US administration of 200m doses, enough for 15-18% of the population of the world’s 92 poorest countries. Additionally, Johnson & Johnson are supplying more than half of its vaccines to the scheme.

At a press conference of the global pharma industry association, Bourla said: “I think yes, we will be covering [the goal]. I think next year, we should be having enough doses for all that they want to receive, then we will reach the same problems that we are reaching in the high-income countries, with people refusing to get the vaccination.”

Despite criticism from figures such as the former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the US and the EU have been stockpiling vaccines for their own use, rather than passing them on to the Covax scheme, as was promised at the G7 summit of world leaders in Cornwall in June.

Brown recently said that despite a pledge to make 870m Covid vaccine doses available to the Covax scheme, only 100m had so far been supplied. He also said that the defence given by Western leaders that they wanted to avoid disruptions to the supply chain no longer applied, as vaccine production was now up to a rate of about 1.5bn doses a month.

Many wealthy nations now have far more vaccine doses than they need, because governments hedged their bets and deliberately overordered stock, to account for any failures in production or approval of vaccines. The US and the EU have five doses per head, while the UK has seven, and Canada has almost nine.

There is estimated to be 500m doses supplied to Western nations which are currently unneeded, even when booster jabs for the over-50’s and programmes to inoculate teenagers have been rolled out. Unless more vaccines are redistributed among less wealthy nations, the surplus could rise to 1.1bn spare doses by the end of the year.

The chief scientific officer of Johnson & Johnson, Paul Stoffels, has spoken out in favour of accelerating the immunisation programme worldwide. He points out that this will be to the advantage of all nations in the end, as it will limit the chances of new variants of the virus developing, and mutants which prove to be vaccine-resistant spreading worldwide.

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