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World may see 18 percent shortfall in supply of COVID-19 vaccines in 2021: Report

Airfinity pegs the global demand for COVID-19 vaccines in 2021 at 11.5 billion doses, while the forecasted production is estimated to be 9.5 billion doses.

March 11, 2021 / 11:34 AM IST

The world may see 18 percent shortfall in the supply of COVID-19 vaccines in 2021, according to a report by science data analytics company Airfinity.

Airfinity pegs the global demand for COVID-19 vaccines in 2021 at 11.5 billion doses, while the forecasted production is estimated to be 9.5 billion doses. Two vaccine doses are required to fully vaccinate
each person.

Airfinity calculated the vaccine demand on the basis of 75 percent vaccination coverage assuming vaccine efficacy is 90 percent.

As of late February 2021, countries, regional and global mechanisms such as WHO's COVAX have announced secured doses of 9-11 billion for 2021. About half of these doses are for high-income countries, 2-3 billion doses for upper-middle income countries (UMICs), and 2-3 billion for the 92 low and middle-income countries.

As on March 5, the production of all COVID-19 vaccines put together was 413 million doses. Pfizer alone has more than one-fifth of the total vaccines produced currently at 119 million doses, followed by China's Sinovac at 91 million doses, and AstraZeneca and Serum Institute of India (SII) have together produced about 83 million doses. Moderna is fourth at 61 million doses.

COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Over 270 million people were vaccinated globally as of March 3. It is estimated that vaccinating 70 percent, or about 5.5 billion people
worldwide, would enable herd immunity.

Interestingly, the demand for all other non-COVID-19 vaccines put together is close to 5 billion doses.

Globally mNRA vaccines of Pfizer and Moderna dominate production, holding 43 percent share, followed by inactivated vaccines like Sinovac, Sinopharm, Bharat Biotech at 35 percent, and the rest is held by viral vector vaccines such as AstraZeneca, Sputnik V and CanSino.

So far 11 vaccines have been approved for emergency use, more than 80 potential vacccines are in clinical trials.

India has approved two vaccines SII's Covishield and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin for restricted emergency use. India so far inoculated 2.5 crore people.

Viswanath Pilla
Viswanath Pilla is a business journalist with 14 years of reporting experience. Based in Mumbai, Pilla covers pharma, healthcare and infrastructure sectors for Moneycontrol.