As the race intensifies for a vaccine against the new coronavirus, rich countries are rushing to place advance orders for the inevitably limited supply to guarantee their citizens get immunized first — leaving significant questions about whether developing countries will get any vaccines in time to save lives before the pandemic ends. Earlier this month, the United Nations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, and others said it was a “moral imperative” that everyone has access to a “people’s vaccine.” But such grand declarations are unenforceable, and without a detailed strategy, the allocation of vaccines could be inequitable and extremely messy, said health experts. Worldwide, about a dozen potential COVID-19 vaccines are in the early stages of testing. While some could move into late-stage testing later this year if all goes well, it’s unlikely any would be licensed before early next year at the earliest. Still, numerous rich countries have already ordered some of these experimental shots and expect delivery even before they are granted marketing approval. The World Health Organization is currently working on developing an “allocation framework” for how coronavirus vaccines should be given out, said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, the U.N. health agency’s chief scientist. But this guidance would not be binding.
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