Both countries have already sent millions of jabs abroad in the hope of cementing existing friendships or creating new ones, though Russia’s campaign has been substantially less effective as difficulties ramping up production have delayed deliveries – triggering rows with governments such as Argentina.
But despite the fallout from gaping inequalities, Agathe Demarais, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s global forecasting director and author of the report, warned there is now “little chance that the divide over access to vaccines will ever be bridged”.
Covax ‘failed to live up to expectations’
As of late August, roughly 60 per cent of people living in higher-income countries had received at least one Covid jab – compared to just one per cent in low-income nations.
Huge swathes of the world, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia, are unlikely to reach widespread vaccination coverage until at least 2023 (see chart below). On Tuesday, the World Health Organization hit out at the “shocking disparity” in access, with only four countries in Africa able to meet their inoculation targets to date.
“Covax, the WHO-sponsored initiative to ship vaccines to emerging economies, has failed to live up to (modest) expectations,” Ms Demarais said. “Despite flattering press releases, donations from rich countries also cover only a fraction of the needs.”
Covax had intended to deliver 1.9 billion shots over the course of the year, but has been hindered by bumpy manufacturing, contracts with pharmaceutical companies which prioritised shipments to wealthy countries, and vaccine export bans – most notably in India.