Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.


A shipment of more than one million doses of Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines donated through COVAX arrive at an air force base in El Alto, Bolivia, on July 11, 2021. (Photo: Aizar Raldes/AFP via Getty Images)

As US 'Drowning' in Unused Doses, WHO Chief Laments 'Horrifying Injustice' of Covid-19 Vaccine Inequity

"None of us is safe until all of us are safe. The tragedy of this pandemic is that it could have been under control by now, if vaccines had been allocated more equitably."

Brett Wilkins

As a new analysis shows a mere 1% of those in low-income countries have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine shot, a report published at the medical news site STAT Tuesday reveals U.S. states are sitting on millions of unused doses of the life-saving inoculations that will soon expire as domestic demand declines.

"We're drowning in this stuff. It's starting to get a bit silly and we want to make sure we're being good stewards."
—Robert Ator, Arkansas health official

According to the report, health departments in several states have repeatedly asked the federal government to redistribute excess vaccine stocks to other countries where they are desperately needed as many nations are suffering a third wave of the pandemic. However, STAT says federal officials have rejected states' requests on legal and logistical grounds.

"We're drowning in this stuff," Robert Ator, a retired Arkansas Air National Guard colonel leading that state's Covid-19 vaccine distribution drive, told STAT. "It's starting to get a bit silly and we want to make sure we're being good stewards."

According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, U.S. states have administered 52.36 million fewer Covid-19 vaccine doses than they've received. Jennifer Kates, director of global health at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told STAT that even after accounting for reporting delays, wastage, and unadministered second shots, a conservative estimate suggests that states are currently sitting on around 26 million unused doses.

Many of those doses are set to expire in August. Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer at the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, told STAT that dwindling demand is partly to blame for the glut of unused vaccines.

"We're seeing demand falling off across all the states," said Plescia. "It's not like, if Connecticut doesn't need theirs, it can go to Alabama. There just isn't the demand."

According to STAT:

Meanwhile, stockpiles of vaccines continue to build at the federal level. The U.S. has bought 1.41 billion doses in total, and has so far distributed around 390 million across the country. An additional 562 million Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are expected to arrive in the U.S. from July 2021 until the end of the year, according to Airfinity, a life sciences analytics firm.

Covid-19 misinformation—often disseminated by anti-vaccine personalities and spread by Republican politicians and right-wing pundits on social media and conservative cable news outlets and websites—is driving U.S. vaccination hesitancy and lowering demand for the shots. Last week, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said "this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated," noting that 97% of new Covid-19 hospitalizations are of people who have not had their shots.

As states grapple with the looming expiration of millions of unused vaccine doses, the Biden administration is falling short of its pledge to share tens of millions of vaccines with a world in desperate need.

Last month, the White House announced that "the United States would be an arsenal of vaccines for the world," and that President Joe Biden had "pledged 80 million doses to be allocated by the end of June."

The White House said that 75% of the doses would be shared through COVAXthe global initiative co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO), and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)—while the remaining 25% "will be targeted to help deal with surges around the world."

However, the U.S. shipped less than 24 million doses to 10 recipient nations by the end of June, and on Tuesday Public Citizen access-to-medicines expert Zain Rizvi noted that the administration has only delivered half of the promised 80 million doses by the middle of July.

Last month, the Biden administration also committed to purchasing and donating 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to more than 100 countries over the coming year, a pledge that Niko Lusiani, Oxfam America's vaccine lead, called "encouraging" but "still a drop in the bucket compared to the need across the world."

A Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) analysis released Wednesday found that while 51% of those in high-income countries have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, just 1% of those in low-income countries have.

Speaking Wednesday at the 138th International Olympic Committee Session in Tokyo, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that "the global failure to share vaccines, tests, and treatments—including oxygen—is fueling a two-track pandemic: the haves are opening up, while the have-nots are locking down."

"The longer this discrepancy persists, the longer the pandemic will drag on, and so will the social and economic turmoil it brings," said Tedros. "I am often asked when the pandemic will end. My answer is equally simple: The pandemic will end when the world chooses to end it. We have the tools to prevent transmission, and save lives. Our common goal must be to vaccinate 70% of the population of every country by the middle of next year."

Tedros continued:

More than three-and-a-half billion vaccine doses have now been administered globally, and more than one in four people have received at least one vaccine dose. On the surface, that's good news. But it masks a horrifying injustice. Seventy-five percent of vaccines have been administered in just 10 countries. In low income countries, only 1% of people have received at least one dose, compared with more than half of people in high-income countries.

"Some of the richest countries are now talking about third booster shots for their populations, while health workers, older people, and other vulnerable groups in the rest of the world continue to go without," the WHO chief said. "This is not just a moral outrage; it's also epidemiologically and economically self-defeating."

Tedros raised the possibility that "more variants will emerge with the potential to be even more dangerous than the Delta variant that is causing such devastation now. And the more variants, the higher the likelihood that one of them will evade vaccines and take us all back to square one."

"None of us is safe until all of us are safe," he stressed. "The tragedy of this pandemic is that it could have been under control by now, if vaccines had been allocated more equitably."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.


NATO to Boost Ranks of High-Readiness Forces by 650% to Over 300,000

Anti-war campaigners responded that "this is not the path to peace and will not make the world safer."

Jake Johnson ·

Ilhan Omar Says Plan to Fix Supreme Court Must Include Impeachment Probes

"We need an impeachment investigation into Clarence Thomas' role in the January 6th coup, as well as into Gorsuch, Alito, Barrett, and Kavanaugh's testimony on Roe during their confirmation hearings," said the Minnesota Democrat.

Jake Johnson ·

Right-Wing Justices Should Be Impeached for Lying Under Oath, Says Ocasio-Cortez

"We have a responsibility to protect our democracy," said the New York Democrat. "That includes holding those in power who violate the law accountable."

Kenny Stancil ·

'Infuriating': Biden Rebuked for Continued Opposition to Supreme Court Expansion

"What does Biden 'agree' with doing?" Mehdi Hasan asked. "What does the leader of this country want to do to stop the increasingly fascistic assault on our democratic institutions and basic rights?"

Kenny Stancil ·

'We Need Action': Biden, Democrats Urged to Protect Abortion Access in Post-Roe US

"The Supreme Court doesn't get the final say on abortion," Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith wrote in a new op-ed.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo