Spain has donated 50 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to developing countries, according to the Spanish Health Ministry. These shots have been distributed via Covax, a global initiative led by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which is aimed at ensuring low-income countries have access to Covid-19 vaccines. In November, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that Spain would donate 50 million doses over the first quarter of 2022 – a goal the country has reached ahead of schedule.
According to the WHO, global vaccine inequality is one of the main problems of the Covid-19 vaccination drive. While Spain has fully immunized 90.4% of the over-12 population, approved booster shots for the over-18 age group and has even given the green light to fourth doses for the immunocompromised, other countries have vaccinated just a fraction of their population.
The situation is especially critical in several countries in Africa. According to the Oxford University’s data repository Our World in Data, Chad has only vaccinated 0.56% of the population, in Ethiopia, the figure is just 1.35%, and in Nigeria, which has the largest population of the continent with 144 million inhabitants, only 2.3% of the country is immunized. Most of the Covid-19 vaccines donated by Spain via Covax have gone to Africa and Latin America, according to the central Health Ministry. The department added that the majority of these doses are from the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which played only a minor role in Spain’s vaccination drive due to a health scare over a small number of thrombosis cases that were recorded among recipients.
“We are in a position to show that it is possible to lead national vaccination and global vaccination at the same time,” said Sánchez in November, after Spain reached the milestone of donating 30 million Covid-19 doses to developing countries. The leader of the Socialist Party (PSOE) said the accomplishment “should make us feel proud of ourselves as a country.” “Spain is not only committed, but also moved into action a long time ago,” he said, describing the vaccination gap between the north and the south as “horrendous.”
Spain has so far donated the fourth-largest number of vaccine doses in the world, behind only the United States (193 million), Germany (99 million) and France (64 million), which all have larger populations.
Vaccine equity is not charity; it’s in every country’s best interestsWHO general director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Low vaccination rates are not only a problem for the country struggling to immunize its population, but also for the world, as this issue increases the likelihood of new coronavirus variants appearing, as happened with the highly transmissible omicron strain. As WHO general director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus explained at the end of last year: “More than 80% of the world’s vaccines have gone to G20 countries; low-income countries, most of them in Africa, have received just 0.6% of all vaccines.”
He added: “We understand and support every government’s responsibility to protect its own people. It’s natural. But vaccine equity is not charity; it’s in every country’s best interests [...] The longer vaccine inequity persists, the more opportunity this virus has to spread and evolve in ways we cannot predict nor prevent. We are all in this together.”
According to sources from the Health Ministry, Spain will continue to donate vaccines, with two million doses earmarked for humanitarian corridors, which represent one of the new fronts of the donation drive. For security reasons, these same sources did not wish to specify the exact destination of the vaccines.