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The Guardian view on vaccine justice: what the world needs now | Editorial

While some in the west are triple-dosed, the vast majority of health workers in Africa remain unprotected. Gestures won’t close the gulf

AstraZeneca’s halo has slipped. When it partnered with Oxford University, it promised to sell Covid vaccines at cost while the pandemic lasted; now it is signing its first for-profit deals, saying it believes that the illness is moving to an endemic phase. Even after more than 5m deaths, this is a highly questionable assertion. More than 250,000 new cases and 5,400 deaths were recorded globally on Monday.

But it would be wholly wrong to focus on AstraZeneca’s record when its rivals have been minting money while it maximised distribution. Pfizer says it will net $36bn this year from Covid vaccine sales. The problem is that shots are still not going where they are most needed. This is becoming a pandemic of poorer nations. More than 7bn doses have been distributed, but while more than two in 10 people over 12 in the UK have had a booster, fewer than one in 10 health workers in Africa have been fully vaccinated in the first place. This is, in the words of Dr Maria Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical lead on Covid-19, outrageous. Our use of vaccines is too often inappropriate “epidemiologically, economically, ethically”, she said.

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