The world’s 27 wealthiest countries have received 35.9% of all vaccinations globally; these countries only make up 10.5% of the world’s population. Some examples include the USA, who have 21.3% of the world’s vaccinations with a nation representing only 4.3% of the world’s population, and the UK, who have 4.2% of the world’s vaccinations and only 0.9% of the world’s population. Those countries who represent the world’s poorest 11% have only received 1.6% of the world’s vaccines (as of 9th April). The current statistics don’t even represent 40 of the world’s poorest nations, who represent 8% of the global population, as they don’t yet have vaccination data.

Those countries with the highest incomes are being vaccinated roughly 25 times faster than those with the lowest incomes, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out why. The disparity in vaccine supply between poor and wealthy nations, especially compared to population size, highlights one frank truth: money wins. These wealthy, western nation’s approach to acquiring COVID-19 vaccines is distinctly capitalist. At the pandemic’s outset, placing a costly pre-order for vaccines was a big risk – there was no guarantee that each company’s vaccine would work. Wealthy nations could shoulder this potential risk by signing multiple pre-orders with different suppliers, paying more to secure the maximum supply. Canada, for example, has vaccine deals with 7 countries. In 2020, even middle-income countries had trouble winning contracts due to this problem; even if they could afford to foot the bill, they simply couldn’t get to the front of the queue. The world’s wealthiest nations instead pre-purchased billions of vaccines – enough to inoculate their populations several times over.

The disparity in vaccine supply between poor and wealthy nations, especially compared to population size, highlights one frank truth: money wins.

This is capitalism – so vaccine providers flock to where the money is. Moderna received $18 billion in vaccines sales in 2021, and only promised to supply vaccines to COVAX in early May 2021. Pfizer recently announced that it is seeking emergency FDA approval to administer its vaccine in children aged between 2 and 11 years. Even as vulnerable adults across the globe are without vaccines, the company is orienting towards the demand to vaccinate children in wealthy nations who are nearing substantial rates of inoculation in their adult population.

The development of vaccines was publicly funded by the UK, USA and EU. In the USA, Operation Warp Speed subsidised the development and manufacturing of multiple vaccines. But the world-class medicine that has kept wealthy population’s alive during the pandemic is thanks to their large economies which enabled their governments to take those actions.

The behaviour of western nations in acquiring vaccines makes you think – if the idea of socialism is to protect the less well-off members of society, does the society itself not need to be wealthier to do its job? Similarly, strict lockdowns served to protect those members of society who were severely ill with COVID, but at what cost to the overall society in the long-term?