Nearly one in four people in the poorest parts of the world people may not get COVID-19 vaccines until at least 2022 because rich countries have reserved 51 per cent of the most promising jabs, states a study in the British Medical Journal.
As of 15 November, high-income nations had pre-ordered nearly 7.5 billion doses of vaccines from 13 manufacturers. These nations included Japan, Australia and Canada who collectively have more than one billion doses but account for less than one per cent of current Covid-19 cases.
Eager to increase their chances of having access to at least one of the dozens of vaccines in development, many nations have snapped up allocations of several different drugs.
Even if the drug makers all produce effective, safe vaccines and meet their maximum global manufacturing targets, the study said "at least a fifth of the world's population would not have access to vaccines until 2022".
Many countries have joined a pooled purchasing mechanism COVAX -- coordinated by the World Health Organisation -- aiming to ensure that people across the world have access to a Covid-19 vaccine, regardless of wealth.
The initiative is hoping to have two billion doses available by the end of 2021.
But neither the United States nor Russia have so far joined the programme.
Jason Schwartz, at the Yale School of Public Health, said US participation in coordination efforts would be "invaluable" in helping ensure people across the world have access to vaccines "that will ultimately help bring an end to this devastating global health crisis".
In a BMJ editorial, Schwartz said the requirement for two doses and the very low temperatures needed to store some of the vaccines added to the challenges for many countries.
The Johns Hopkins Institute authors said prices for immunisations ranged from $6 per course to as high as $74. They found that if all the vaccines work as hoped, many richer nations would have already reserved at least one immunisation per person.
Researchers said that Canada had ordered the equivalent of four doses per person, the United States has reserved just enough for one vaccine course per person, while countries like Indonesia have reserved less than one vaccine course for every two people.