With First Dibs on Vaccines, Rich Countries Have ‘Cleared the Shelves’

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And while Pfizer’s vaccines are already flowing to Britain, Canada and the United States, it is unclear when they will arrive in other countries. Mexico, according to an announcement, could get its first vaccines any time in the next 12 months.

Clemens Auer, a chief negotiator for the European Union, said an in an email that its contract with Pfizer for 200 million doses came with a “fixed delivery timetable,” but that he was keeping the details from the public. “Details don’t matter much,” he said, given the high volume of promising vaccines the E.U. had secured.

In Canada, the government has faced questioning over its contract with Moderna. The country secured an agreement in August for 20 million doses, with an option for an additional 36 million. The United States announced a deal for up to 500 million doses shortly after, and Britain and the European Union announced their own deals last month.

So when Moderna said recently that its first 20 million would go to the United States, Canadian politicians were accused of letting their country lose its place. It wasn’t widely known that as a condition for receiving U.S. financial support, Moderna had promised Americans its first doses.

Erin O’Toole, the Conservative leader of Canada’s Parliament, introduced a motion requiring the government to post fulfillment dates for its orders, saying that citizens “deserve to know when they can expect each vaccine type.”

Even if other promising candidates, like Johnson & Johnson’s, soon get approval and take pressure off Pfizer and Moderna, there’s no guarantee the companies will be able to satisfy their commitments next year.

“People think, just because we’ve demonstrated in Phase 3 clinical trials that we have safe and effective vaccines, that the spigots are about to be turned completely on,” said Dr. Richard Hatchett, head of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness, one of the global nonprofits leading the Covax program with the W.H.O. “The challenges of scaling up manufacturing are significant, and they are fraught.”



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