Even as a third wave of Covid-19 strikes, the world waits for the coronavirus vaccine to arrive in the markets. Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca have already started manufacturing their vaccines. 

Only a few days ago, Pfizer Inc along with partner BioNTech SE released data showing their Covid-19 vaccines to be about 95 per cent effective at preventing the disease.

Soon after it was followed by Moderna Inc. AstraZeneca Plc this week released data saying its vaccine could be up to 90 per cent effective. 

The companies have already stated that they are fully prepared to start with the distribution of the vaccines as and when ordered by the governments.

While Pfizer said it will have enough vaccines to inoculate 25 million people this year, Moderna will have enough for 10 million people and AstraZeneca will have enough for more than 100 million people.

The US Department of Defence and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will manage distribution in the United States, likely starting in mid-December with an initial release of 6.4 million doses nationwide.

UK health authorities plan to roll out an approved vaccine as quickly as possible, also expected in December.

In the European Union, it is up to each country in the 27-member bloc to start distributing vaccines to their populations.

Vaccine makers and governments have negotiated varying prices, not all of which are public. Governments have paid from a few dollars per AstraZeneca shot to up to 50 dollar for the two-dose Pfizer regimen.

Many countries have said they will cover the cost of inoculating their residents.

Who will be vaccinated first in the US?

US Department of Defence and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said first in line for vaccinations would be about 21 million healthcare workers and 3 million residents in long-term care facilities.

Essential workers, a group of 87 million people who do crucial work in jobs that cannot be done from home, are the likely next group. This includes firefighters, police, school employees, transportation workers, food and agriculture workers and food service employees.

Around 100 million adults with high-risk medical conditions and 53 million adults over the age of 65, also considered at higher risk of severe disease, are the next priority.

US public health officials said vaccines will be generally available to most Americans in pharmacies, clinics and doctors offices starting in April so that anyone who wants a shot can have one by the end of June.

It is unclear when a vaccine will be available for children. Pfizer and BioNTech have started testing their vaccine in volunteers as young as 12.

When vaccine will be available in other countries?

The European Union, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada and Australia are all running rapid vaccine regulatory processes.

Many of AstraZeneca’s doses this year are expected to go to the United Kingdom, where health officials have said that if approved they could begin vaccinating people in December. At the top of their list is people living and working in care homes.

In Europe, the EU drugs regulator has said it could rule on the safety of a Covid-19 vaccine in December.

Most countries have said the first vaccines will go to the elderly and vulnerable and frontline workers like doctors.

Italy expects to receive the first deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot and AstraZeneca shot early next year. Spain plans to give vaccines in January.

In Bulgaria, the country's chief health inspector expects the first shipments in March-April. Hungary's foreign minister said doses will land in the spring at the earliest.

Germany, home to BioNTech, expects to roll out shots in early 2021 with mass vaccination centers in exhibition halls, airport terminals and concert venues.

It will also use mobile teams for care homes. Front-line healthcare workers and people at risk for serious Covid-19 are expected to get inoculated first.

When developing countries will have access to vaccines?

COVAX, a program led by the World Health Organization and the GAVI vaccine group to pool funds from wealthier countries and nonprofits to buy and distribute vaccines to dozens of poorer countries, has raised 2 billion dollars.

Its first goal is to vaccinate 3 per cent of the people in these countries with a final goal of reaching 20 per cent. It has signed a provisional agreement to buy AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which does not require storage in specialized ultra cold equipment like the Pfizer vaccine.

It is expected but not certain that less wealthy countries in Africa and South East Asia, will receive vaccines at low or no cost under this program in 2021.

Latin American countries may buy vaccines through COVAX. Several are also striking supply deals with drugmakers.

(With Agency inputs)

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