Suspicions mount that the coronavirus was spreading in China and Europe as early as October, following a WHO investigation

covid researchers wuhan
A worker in protective coverings directs members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team on their arrival at the airport in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province on January 14, 2021.

  • Experts from the WHO and China conducted an investigation into the coronavirus’ origins in Wuhan.
  • The investigation bolstered findings from studies that suggested the virus was circulating in China and Europe months before officials confirmed the first cases.
  • One study found that some people in the US had coronavirus antibodies in December 2019.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A growing body of evidence suggests the coronavirus was spreading globally months before the first cases in a Wuhan market captured global attention last December.

The World Health Organization sent an international team to China in January to investigate the virus’ origins and when it started circulating.

The team assessed medical records from more than 230 clinics across Hubei – the province where Wuhan is located – to look for clues. More than 90 patients in the province were hospitalized with pneumonia or coronavirus-like symptoms in October and November 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

This finding lends credence to other research from China that shows people were getting sick in Wuhan in November and early December. One analysis, based on satellite images of Wuhan hospitals and online searches for COVID-19 symptoms in the area, suggested the virus may have started circulating there as early as late summer.

A study from Milan’s National Cancer Institute also found that four of Italy’s coronavirus cases dated back to October 2019. Another study suggests the virus reached the US’ West Coast in December 2019.

Although pinpointing the exact date of the virus’ first jump from animals to people is impossible without more data, these findings suggest the pandemic’s December anniversary is arbitrary.

The virus was spreading in Wuhan before the December

Wuhan hospital
Healthcare workers transport bodies outside a hospital in Wuhan, China, February 5, 2020.

Wuhan public-health officials initially told the WHO about a mysterious illness that would later be named the novel coronavirus on December 31, 2019.

But government records show China’s first coronavirus case happened on November 17, 2019, according to an investigation by the South China Morning Post.

According to the SCMP, Chinese medical experts pinpointed 60 coronavirus cases from November and December by reanalyzing samples taken from patients seen during that time. That analysis showed that a 55-year-old from Hubei was the first known case of COVID-19 in the world, though the disease hadn’t been identified at that time.

Prior to the January WHO investigation, Chinese authorities worked to sample blood from 92 people in Hubei who were hospitalized with coronavirus-like symptoms prior to the start of the pandemic.

They sampled blood from two-thirds of those patients that to check for coronavirus-specific antibodies, which would indicate the patients had previously been infected with the virus. All of the samples tested negative for those antibodies, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The remaining one-third of those 92 patients had either died or refused to participate in antibody testing.

The negative results may not mean those people didn’t have COVID-19. Antibody levels do decrease over time, particularly after mild cases. But those patients were also hospitalized, suggesting a more severe illness.

“Antibodies do clear. The levels go down, but less so in cases of severe infection,” Marion Koopmans, a virologist on the WHO team, told the Wall Street Journal. “From what we know about serology, out of 92 cases you would at least have some positives.”

A study from researchers at Harvard University did find more people were visiting Wuhan hospitals in the latter half of 2019. The study authors used satellite imagery of the city to measure traffic to six city hospitals. They saw an uptick starting in August 2019, which peaked six months later. This timeline coincided with an increase in online search traffic for terms like “diarrhea” and “cough.”

The Wuhan market was not the origin of the pandemic

Wuhan lockdown
Security personnel wear masks walk in front of a field hospital in Wuhan on April 9, 2020.

Among the 41 coronavirus cases, Wuhan first reported, many were people who visited or worked at the city’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.

But according to an April report, 13 of the 41 original cases had no link to the market – which suggests the market wasn’t the origin site of the pandemic.

The WHO team confirmed the virus didn’t make its initial jump from animals to humans at the Huanan market. Evidence suggests the virus was circulating elsewhere in Wuhan before the market outbreak happened, Liang Wannian, a member of China’s National Health Commission who assisted with the WHO investigation, said in a press conference Tuesday.

wuhan wet market
This wet market in Wuhan, China, pictured on January 21, 2020, was linked to one of the earliest coronavirus outbreaks.

A May investigation also led the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention to rule the market out as the origin place of the outbreak. That’s because none of the animals there tested positive for the virus.

Most likely, the market was simply the site of an early superspreader event, with one sick person infecting an atypically large number of others. Superspreader events around the world have created clusters of infections that cropped up almost overnight. 

Research suggests the virus was in Italy in the fall of 2019

italy coronavirus
A COVID-19 patient is transported by nurses inside a biological containment stretcher in the Da Procida Hospital in Salerno, Italy, April 8, 2020.

Italy recorded its first official coronavirus case in Lombardy on February 21, 2020. Yet a recent study found coronavirus antibodies in blood samples collected from 23 Italians in September 2019 and 27 in October 2019.

“Our results indicate that SARS-CoV-2 circulated in Italy earlier than the first official COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in Lombardy, even long before the first official reports from the Chinese authorities, casting new light on the onset and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the authors wrote. (SARS-CoV-2 is the clinical name of the virus.)

A study conducted by Rome’s Department of Environment and Health supports that conclusion: Researchers found the coronavirus’ genetic material in sewage samples from Milan and Turin dating back to December 18, 2019.

italy coronavirus mask flag
A man walks past a billboard raising awareness about the new coronavirus that reads “All together, without fear,” in Naples, Italy on March 22, 2020.

Spain and France also found clues that the virus was circulating in 2019

In May, doctors at a Paris hospital discovered that patients they’d treated for pneumonia on December 27, 2019, had been sick with COVID-19. France didn’t record its first official case until January 24, however.

Barcelona, Spain, COVID-19 coronavirus August 31 2020
People in line for coronavirus tests in Barcelona, Spain, on August 31, 2020.

In Spain, meanwhile, researchers from the University of Barcelona found evidence of the coronavirus in city sewage samples collected in mid-January 2020, six weeks before the country’s first official case. 

Surprisingly, a sewage sample collected on March 12, 2019, also tested positive for traces of the coronavirus. But testing wastewater isn’t a perfect way to detect outbreaks, as Claire Crossan wrote in The Conversation. So it’s possible that the March sample had been contaminated during the study. 

By December 2019, the virus had reached the US

california beach pier coronavirus oceanside crowd masks
Few people wear masks on a pier in Oceanside, California, June 22, 2020.

Research in the US, too, offers evidence that the virus had gone global before humanity even knew it existed.

The US recorded its first coronavirus case on January 20, 2020. But according to one study, the virus had reached the Pacific Northwest at least a month earlier. Blood samples collected by the American Red Cross in nine states, including California, Oregon, and Washington, showed that some Americans had coronavirus antibodies as early as December 13, 2019.

Detroit tests for antibodies
A young resident of Detroit, Michigan, is tested for coronavirus antibodies on April 28, 2020.

Antibodies are an imperfect measure of the outbreak since some research suggests our immune systems can create antibodies that recognize the new coronavirus in response to some common colds. Antibody tests can also yield false positives.

Yet in the past, scientists successfully used retrospective antibody studies to trace the origins of SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) – both coronaviruses. Virologists found antibodies specific to SARS in civet cats, and antibodies specific to MERS in camels, which is how they determined those to be each virus’ animal progenitor.

Further examination of blood samples taken in 2019 could be the best way to find out when this pandemic really began.

Read the original article on Business Insider

An elite panel of world leaders has called out China for its bungled coronavirus response and is vowing to shore up the fledgling ‘global pandemic alert system’ by May

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

  • A group of world leaders tasked with leading a postmortem on the global response to the coronavirus pandemic has issued a rebuke to China’s early handling of the outbreak.
  • The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, which reports to the World Health Organization, chastised the Chinese government on Monday for what it suggested was a bungled response to COVID-19.
  • “What is clear to the Panel is that public health measures could have been applied more forcefully by local and national health authorities in China in January,” they wrote in a new report.
  • The group also promised to issue new guidance to fix the world’s “global pandemic alert system,” which it called “not fit for purpose,” in another report coming in May.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A group of world leaders tasked with leading a postmortem on the global response to the coronavirus pandemic has issued a rebuke to China’s early handling of the outbreak. The group is promising to follow up with a laundry list of new recommendations on where the world went wrong in responding to the crisis.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, a group of world leaders that collectively report to the World Health Organization, chastised the Chinese government on Monday for what it suggested was a bungled response to the emergence of COVID-19, which ultimately spiraled out of control last year.

“What is clear to the Panel is that public health measures could have been applied more forcefully by local and national health authorities in China in January,” the Independent Panel said in a new report. The panel counts among its members Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former president of Liberia.

China was the first country to battle the coronavirus pandemic, locking down many regions at the beginning of 2020 to control its spread. Nevertheless, the virus managed to slip beyond China’s borders.

Still, the panel noted that China isn’t the only country to have struggled in its response to the pandemic.

“Never before in modern times has the international community been called on to respond to a global health crisis of this magnitude and with such widespread consequences,” the report went on to say. “The international system’s response has been found wanting in many respects.”

The group went on to call groups of countries like those in the G7 and G8 “largely reactive” in their COVID response, as opposed to proactive in implementing successful mitigation or control protocols.

With nearly 100 million confirmed cases and more than two million recorded deaths worldwide, following the panel’s guidance could be crucial for preventing such lethal public health crises in the future.

Read more: How pharmacies and retailers like Walmart, Kroger, and Rite Aid could benefit from the vaccination push

‘The global pandemic alert system is not fit for purpose’

To prevent another threatening virus from overwhelming the world’s patchwork public health systems, the panel promised to review the existing preventative structures as well as shore up protocols to deal with emerging diseases.

“The global pandemic alert system is not fit for purpose,” the report authors wrote. “Critical elements of the system are slow, cumbersome, and indecisive.”

The panel looked back on recommendations for handling the pandemic that the World Health Organization published throughout 2020, and identified nearly 900 individual pieces of guidance issued by the WHO or its regional offices. The flurry of constantly-evolving guidance itself could have overwhelmed people and contributed to confusion, the report noted.

“The sheer volume of recommendations issued suggests to the Panel the major risk of a lack of direction, clarity, and consistency of the type which would have assisted countries to set priorities in their responses,” the authors wrote, adding that they’ll continue to scrutinize the “coherence and prioritization of recommendations, and evidence concerning their actual patterns of use.”

Now, the panel plans to take a close look at “the methods and tools employed by surveillance and alarm systems” around the world and assess how effective those systems are. They committed to issuing a report in May of this year that could help bring about a “global reset,” and lay the groundwork for a more efficacious response than the one which unfolded in 2020.

Read more: The UK’s hospital system is on the brink of collapse, forcing overworked staff to postpone cancer treatments, stretch oxygen supplies, and put themselves at risk of catching COVID-19

Another report claims Chinese officials in Wuhan failed to direct a swift, cohesive response to the virus

The panel’s conclusions came out on the same day that the Al Jazeera news agency published previously-unseen videos of the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak. The footage, shot clandestinely by two reporters and smuggled outside of China, is said to show how fear and confusion first spread in Wuhan, the hard-hit Chinese capital of Hubei province.

The videos, which Al Jazeera says were shot between January 19 and January 22, 2020, demonstrate the initial lack of urgency with which leaders in Wuhan met the novel coronavirus. Later footage captures the devolution into a much graver state that engulfed the city, which was eventually locked down. One of the reporters who is said to have filmed the footage wrote in his diary that “the lack of staff and equipment in Wuhan caused many infected patients to be denied treatment.”

In spite of China’s early difficulties combating the virus, strict public health measures have helped the country keep its newly-diagnosed daily cases low. Last week, however, the Associated Press reported that China was erecting a new 3,000-unit quarantine facility in the capital of the northern Hebei province, as a response to gradually rising case counts.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The WHO said there is no evidence the COVID-19 vaccine will prevent transmissions, meaning travelers will still need to quarantine

Nurse practitioner Tabe Mase gives U.S. President-elect Joe Biden a dose of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at ChristianaCare Christiana Hospital, in Newark, Delaware, U.S. December 21, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis
A COVID-19 vaccination clinic at ChristianaCare Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware, on December 21, 2020.

  • The World Health Organization’s chief scientist said there is not currently evidence that coronavirus vaccines prevent people from transmitting the virus to other people.
  • Dr. Soumya Swaminathan told a Monday briefing there was not yet enough evidence from vaccine trials “to be confident that it’s going to prevent people from actually getting the infection and therefore being able to pass it on.”
  • She added that people should still quarantine when travelling to countries with lower coronavirus transmission rates, even if they had received the vaccine. 
  • Vaccine researchers in the US are currently trying to determine whether vaccines can stop the virus spreading from person to person, or if they only prevent individuals from becoming ill with COVID-19.
  • The answer is significant because it would determine whether asymptomatic people would continue infecting others.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The World Health Organization has warned that people who are vaccinated against the coronavirus will still need to quarantine when they travel because there is not enough evidence that vaccines prevent people from transmitting the virus.

The WHO’s chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said on Monday that the agency had not established whether COVID-19 vaccines – which are already being administered across the US and in Europe – prevent people from getting the virus and passing it to others.

“At the moment I don’t believe we have the evidence of any of the vaccines to be confident that it’s going to prevent people from actually getting the infection and therefore being able to pass it on,” Swaminathan told a virtual briefing, in comments reported by Axios.

Swaminathan was responding to a question about whether vaccinated people should still be required to quarantine when travelling to countries with lower transmission rates.

“I think until we know more, we need to assume that people who have been vaccinated also need to take the same precautions until there is a certain level of herd immunity that’s been built in the population,” she said.

Business Insider reported last month that vaccine researchers in the US hope to determine whether vaccines can stop the virus spreading from person to person, or whether they simply prevent individuals from getting sick.

The answer would likely have a huge impact on the course of the pandemic because if vaccines prevented transmission, it would reduce the risk of asymptomatic carriers of the virus passing it onto others.

Dr. Larry Corey, the virologist who is drawing up the research proposal, said that the trial still needed funding as well as cooperation from the pharmaceutical companies which have developed effective vaccines.

Three COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be effective in trial results in preventing recipients from becoming ill or seriously ill.

Two of those, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine, are already being administered in the US and in Europe. Meanwhile, the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University is likely to receive approval in the UK within days, according to the Financial Times.

Moderna Chief Medical Officer Tal Zaks said last month he believes it is likely that the vaccine will prevent transmission, but warned that there was not yet “sufficient evidence” that was the case.

“When we start the deployment of this vaccine we will not have sufficient concrete data to prove that this vaccine reduces transmission,” he told “Axios on HBO.”

“I think it’s important that we don’t change behavior solely on the basis of vaccination.”

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The coronavirus was circulating in Europe and China months before officials identified the outbreak in Wuhan, studies show

italy coronavirus mask flag
A man walks past a billboard that reads “All together, without fear,” in Naples, Italy, March 22, 2020.

  • December 31 marks the anniversary of the first confirmed coronavirus cases in Wuhan.
  • But a growing body of evidence suggest the virus was circulating in China and some European countries months before that.
  • In the US, meanwhile, a study found that some people had coronavirus antibodies in December 2019.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Almost exactly one year has passed since the World Health Organization announced the first confirmed cases of the new coronavirus.

Yet the virus’ origin and the true timeline of its worldwide spread remain a mystery. A growing body of evidence now suggests it was circulating months before the first cases captured global attention in Wuhan, China.

A study from Milan’s National Cancer Institute found that four of Italy’s coronavirus cases dated back to October 2019. Research from China shows people were getting sick in Wuhan in November and early December: One analysis, based on satellite images of Wuhan hospitals and online searches for COVID-19 symptoms in the area, suggested the virus may have started circulating there as early as late summer.

Although pinpointing the exact date of the virus’s first jump from animals to people is impossible without more data, many studies suggest the pandemic’s December anniversary is arbitrary.

“It is perfectly possible that the initial cross-species transmission event did not happen in or around Wuhan itself,” Edward Holmes, a virologist at the University of Sydney, told The Guardian.

The virus was spreading in Wuhan before December

Wuhan hospital
Healthcare workers transport bodies outside a hospital in Wuhan, China, February 5, 2020.

Authorities in Wuhan initially told the WHO about a mysterious, new virus on December 31. But government records show China’s first coronavirus case happened on November 17, 2019, according to an investigation by the South China Morning Post.

According to the SCMP, Chinese medical experts pinpointed 60 coronaviruses cases from November and December by reanalyzing samples taken from patients seen during that time. That analysis showed that a 55-year-old from Hubei province (where Wuhan in located), was the first known case of COVID-19 in the world, though the disease hadn’t received that name yet.

Wuhan lockdown
Security personnel wear masks walk in front of a field hospital in Wuhan on April 9, 2020.

In another study, researchers at Harvard University used satellite imagery of Wuhan to measure traffic to six city hospitals. They saw an uptick starting in August 2019, which peaked six months later. This timeline coincided with an increase in online search traffic for terms like “diarrhea” and “cough,” the study authors found.

Even an investigation of the Wuhan market linked to many of the early cases has shown that it wasn’t the origin site of the pandemic. Among the 41 coronavirus cases Wuhan first reported, many were people who visited or worked at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. But according to a report in The Lancet, 13 of those original cases had no link to the market

wuhan wet market
This wet market in Wuhan, China, pictured on January 21, 2020, was linked to one of the earliest coronavirus outbreaks.

A May investigation also led the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention to rule the market out as the origin place of the outbreak. That’s because none of the animals there tested positive for the virus.

Most likely, the market was simply the site of an early superspreader event, with one sick person infecting an atypically large number of others. Superspreader events around the world have created clusters of infections that cropped up almost overnight. 

Research suggests the virus was in Italy last fall

italy coronavirus
A COVID-19 patient is transported by nurses inside a biological containment stretcher in the Da Procida Hospital in Salerno, Italy, April 8, 2020.

Italy recorded its first official coronavirus case in Lombardy on February 21. Yet a recent study found coronavirus antibodies in blood samples collected from 23 Italians in September and 27 in October.

“Our results indicate that SARS-CoV-2 circulated in Italy earlier than the first official COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in Lombardy, even long before the first official reports from the Chinese authorities, casting new light on the onset and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the authors wrote. (SARS-CoV-2 is the clinical name of the virus.)

A study conducted by Rome’s Department of Environment and Health supports that conclusion: Researchers found the coronavirus’ genetic material in sewage samples from Milan and Turin dating back to December 18, 2019.

doctors coronavirus front line
Nurses embrace at a hospital in Lombardy, Italy, March 15, 2020.

Spain and France also found clues that the virus was circulating in 2019

In May, doctors at a Paris hospital discovered that a patients they’d treated for pneumonia on December 27 had been sick with COVID-19. France didn’t record its first official case until January 24, however.

Barcelona, Spain, COVID-19 coronavirus August 31 2020
People in line for coronavirus tests in Barcelona, Spain, on August 31, 2020.

In Spain, meanwhile, researchers from the University of Barcelona found evidence of the coronavirus in city sewage samples collected in mid-January, six weeks before the country’s first official case. 

Surprisingly, a sewage sample collected on March 12, 2019 also tested positive for traces of the coronavirus. But testing wastewater isn’t a perfect way to detect outbreaks, as Claire Crossan wrote in The Conversation. So it’s possible that March sample had been contaminated during study. 

By December 2019, the virus had reached the US

california beach pier coronavirus oceanside crowd masks
Few people wear masks on a pier in Oceanside, California, June 22, 2020.

Research in the US, too, offers evidence that the virus had gone global before humanity even knew it existed.

The US recorded its first coronavirus case on January 20. But according to one study, the virus had reached the Pacific Northwest at least a month earlier. Blood samples collected by the American Red Cross in nine states, including California, Oregon, and Washington, showed that some Americans had coronavirus antibodies as early as December 13, 2019.

Detroit tests for antibodies
A young resident of Detroit, Michigan, is tested for coronavirus antibodies on April 28, 2020.

Antibodies are an imperfect measure of the outbreak, since some research suggests our immune systems can create antibodies that recognize the new coronavirus in response to some common colds. Antibody tests can also yield false positives.

Yet in the past, scientists successfully used retrospective antibody studies to trace the origins of SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) – both coronaviruses. Virologists found antibodies specific to SARS in civet cats, and antibodies specific to MERS in camels, which is how they determined those to be each virus’ animal progenitor.

Further examination of blood samples taken in 2019 could be the best way to find out when this pandemic really began.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The UN-backed initiative to get vaccines to poorer countries is underfunded, floundering, and some nations are choosing instead to go it alone

Covid Vaccine
  • COVAX, the global alliance to ensure a fair supply of coronavirus vaccines in poorer countries, is struggling in its mission, according to the Associated Press (AP)
  • It has acquired only 10% of the 2 billion doses it intends to buy in the next year, according to the AP. 
  • Additionally, it is $5 billion short of the funds needed, the AP reported. A report seen by the outlet said its risk of failure is now “very high.”
  • Meanwhile, the bulk of 2021’s planned production has already been preordered by countries like the US, the UK and Canada, the outlet reported. 
  • The buyout — as well as many other practical factors — means that poorer countries could wait years to get an effective number of vaccines. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

COVAX, the global alliance to secure a supply of coronavirus vaccines for poorer countries, is struggling in its mission, according to the Associated Press (AP)

“The whole call for global solidarity has mostly been lost,” said Dr. Katherine O’Brien, the World Health Organization (WHO)’s vaccine director, in frank internal recordings obtained by the AP. 

WHO set up COVAX in partnership with the Gavi vaccine alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to give poorer nations a fair chance to get access to a vaccine. 

But as wealthy countries rush to preorder as much as they can, COVAX has managed to secure a total of 200 million doses – a tenth of the 2 billion it aimed at buying over the next year, according to the AP. 

The purchase of another 500 million doses has also been agreed, but not in a way that is legally binding, the agency said. 

It is also $5 billion short of the money needed to buy them, the AP reported. 

“COVAX has not secured enough doses, and the way the situation may unfold is they will probably only get these doses fairly late,” it reported Arnaud Bernaert, head of global health at the World Economic Forum, as saying. 

In total, of the 12 billion expected to be produced by the pharmaceutical industry next year, about 9 billion have been preordered by rich countries, the AP reported. 

The West is getting shots already

vaccine rollout in Uk Scotland coronavirus
A nurse in Scotland waits to administer the country’s first Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, December 8, 2020.

COVAX has been hesitant to order stocks before vaccines have secured WHO approval, unlike many countries which have essentially been placing bets on likely candidates, the AP reported.

By September, as confidence in the success of various candidates began to grow, rich countries representing 13% of the world’s population had already secured half the forthcoming supply, according to Oxfam

Now vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca, and Moderna, are in the process of being approved by various national governments, prompting enormous fanfare about their arrival in places like the UK, the US and Canada.

The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine – enough to vaccinate 20 million people – and, according to the BBC, another 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

On December 8, British grandmother Margaret Keenan jumped into the international limelight as the first person in the West to receive an approved COVID-19 vaccine, from Pfizer.

Orders have poured in from rich nations, with Canada securing 200 million doses – five times as many as it needs to treat its entire population, according to the AP.

The European Commission ordered 200 million doses from BioNTech/Pfizer in November, with an option for 100 million more later. 

The UK pledged $700 million to COVAX in September, and in October China became the 157th country to sign up.

The US has refused to back the initiative. But according to a Duke University report, it will control around a quarter of the world’s near-term supply, as Business Insider’s Grace Dean reported

Countries strike out on their own

The rich-country buyout has mopped up much of 2021’s forthcoming supply. But even with enough doses, there would be many other obstacles.

Distribution and storage present a major logistical challenge. In some cases it requires an ultra-cold supply chain and storage system, which simply doesn’t exist in poorer areas.

A Gavi report issued in December said that the risk COVAX will fail its mission is “very high,” according to the AP. And countries are beginning to make other plans. 

The island nation of Palau said in December it would leave the initiative, while Malaysia, Peru and Bangladesh are seeking deals as a form of backup plan, the AP reported.

South Africa and India have called on the World Trade Organization to waive some intellectual property rights around the vaccine, the AP reported. 

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