New from CGD

New Study: COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Fastest in Global History

February 09, 2022
Contact: Lara Cornaro
Center for Global Development
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COVID-19 vaccine response 21 times the size of the annual measles vaccination

WASHINGTON—The COVID-19 vaccine rollout so far has been the fastest in global history and unprecedented in scale, according to a new study released today from the Center for Global Development, which also emphasized the considerable global inequality in access to vaccines to date.

Researchers at the global think tank assessed how vaccines have been developed and deployed against 15 older infectious diseases and compared those efforts to the response to COVID-19.

“The speed of both COVID-19 vaccine development and distribution was revolutionary. This is not just a testimonial to the effort of initiatives like COVAX and the African Union’s, but also good news for the future of pandemic preparedness and response,” said Amanda Glassman, an author of the study and a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. “It’s not just the speed of the rollout that is unprecedented, but the scale and the reach are also particularly impressive in middle-income countries when judged against the historical record. We need to do more to make sure people in low-income countries can access a COVID-19 vaccine, but this has been our fastest response to an infectious threat yet, and I’m hopeful that global policymakers can build on this success to better prepare for future health threats.”

The study found that the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been unprecedented in speed, scale, and reach:

  • The COVID-19 vaccination campaign achieved more widespread coverage worldwide in one year than any comparator vaccination rollout did in three years.
  • The number of annual COVID-19 vaccinations delivered during the pandemic is already 8.9 times the size of the global flu vaccination program and 21 times that of annual measles vaccinations.
  • In the case of the measles vaccine, lower middle-income countries reached 20% target population coverage 6 years after high-income countries did. With the COVID-19 vaccine, lower middle-income countries reached the 20% threshold just 170 days after high-income countries did.
  • 29.4% more of the target population in lower middle-income countries received the COVID vaccine within the first year of rollout than the Hepatitis B vaccine in its first year.

“While more than 57% of the population in OECD countries are fully immunized, only 6.5% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa have been fully vaccinated. Far more can and should be done to speed equitable access to vaccines in the COVID-19 response,” said Charles Kenny, an author of the study and a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. “The reality is that if we want to distribute more vaccines more rapidly to more people across the world, donor countries and institutions like the World Bank need to make that a priority and put more money behind the effort.”

You can read the full study, COVID-19 Vaccine Development and Rollout in Historical Perspective, at /publication/covid-19-vaccine-development-and-rollout-historical-perspective. You can also find an in-depth summary blog post from the authors discussing the inequalities regarding vaccine deployments, The COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Was the Fastest in Global History, but Low-Income Countries Were Left Behind, at /blog/covid-19-vaccine-rollout-was-fastest-global-history-low-income-countries-were-left-behind.