By Ewen Callaway
Wealthy countries have struck deals to buy more than two billion doses of coronavirus vaccine in a scramble that could leave limited supplies in the coming year. Meanwhile, an international effort to acquire vaccines for low- and middle-income countries is struggling to gain traction.
Most experts say that late 2020 or early 2021 is the soonest vaccines could be approved and rolled out; they must first undergo large-scale phase III clinical trials to assess their effectiveness and safety. (Russia has approved a vaccine for limited use, but it hasn’t completed phase III trials.)
But pre-orders are rolling in. By mid-August, the United States had secured 800 million doses of at least 6 vaccines in development, with an option to purchase around one billion more. The United Kingdom was the world’s highest per-capita buyer, with 340 million purchased: around 5 doses for each citizen. The European Union nations — which are buying vaccines as a group — and Japan have locked down hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines for themselves (see ‘Vaccine capacity and pre-orders’).
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