A billion shots of vaccine

The featured photo has 480,000 pixels. Imagine 2084 copies of this picture. The number of pixels in that collection would be around a billion. It is a staggering number. But the human population of the world is almost eight times that much. That is the amount of COVID-19 vaccine that must be produced for everyone in the world to be immunized. That is if the vaccine is perfect. If you need booster shots, or multiple doses, then the problem multiplies.

A news article in Nature tells us how the world plans to produce enough vaccine. The case study in the article is what is being called the Oxford vaccine, with a placeholder of a name: AZD1222. An Indian company called The Serum Institute has tied up with AstraZeneca (and Johnson&Johnson) to market the vaccine. The vaccine is still under Phase III trials, but the company has already created a stockpile of about a million doses in anticipation of clearances. The Gavi Foundation is underwriting the bet on this vaccine for the developing world.

I want to get back to numbers again. The company says that it can produce 60 million doses of this vaccine every month by taking away capacity for other vaccines (so expect tuberculosis and childhood vaccinations to take a back seat). Half of these vaccines will be given to the government of India. The other half will go to the rest of the developing world. India has about 10,000 hospitals, perhaps triple that number of health care centers if you include other clinics. So each will get an average of 100 shots of vaccine a month. Do expect shortages. At this rate it will take 4 years for every Indian to get one dose of this vaccine.

I suppose things may be easier, because if the vaccine works then production will be scaled up. On the other hand, if we need booster shots, then you may have not get it in time. If I want to travel, then I still need to consider risks, because other diseases would have burgeoned in the shadow of COVID-19. Much better to think past our fears, and plan out how to live a life in the presence of a new killer disease.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


  1. Those are truly staggering numbers. Maybe the requirement could be lower if the human body develops immunities in the presently infected cases, but again considering reports of relapses and second waves not sure if that assumption stands. Today we have shelved all overnight travel, but when we resume it will take a lot of trust to board somewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As a student/blogger with no important job and no reason to go outside, I expect to be the last in line to get vaccinated.
    I am preparing for years of limiting my social life, and honestly, I am not even worried about it. Finally more time to write!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When you break it down to 100 shots a day, it starts looking doable from the doctors’ point of view. And when you find that it means a 4 years’ wait for you, you begin to realize that you need to think hard about what you really want from life.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Very good point. But maybe they will develop a vaccine they can administer as they did the polio vaccine to us back in the 50s.

        As for thinking about what one really wants from life — you know, I think that’s a question we need to ask ourselves often.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Maybe you’re not old enough to remember standing in line at school for polio vaccinations. There were two kinds we got — one was a shot, the other was a liquid we Drano. We also got shots at the doctor. It came out in 1954 when I was 2. They didn’t waste any time getting it out to kids. I guess upwards of 15,000 kids a year in the US alone were diagnosed with polio. I knew a lot of kids in m elementary school who had some kind of residual problems from it. Lots of leg braces and crutches. 😦 Polio has just recently been eradicated in Africa.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Actually I’ve forgotten how I got my polio shots, and how often. I think it was shots though, not oral. There was one kid in my class who had a bit of a limp from polio. Yes, finally it has been eradicated.

        Maybe a couple of generations on COVID-19 will also be eradicated

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with you. I think that the promise of a cure all vaccine is not realistic. There will be one but it may be like the flu vaccine and need to be repeated annually and may not be 100% effective for everyone. And then there is the whole issue you have addressed about the staggering numbers world wide that will be needed. However I cannot go into gloom about this. We have a long weekend here and we are going to see our daughter and her family on the holiday Monday. You have a good weekend too and stay safe and well!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting numbers but I would imagine – perhaps incorrectly – that if when a certain number gets the vaccine, the rest will not need it. It will be sort of a negative form of herd immunity; there still won’t be enough infected people to spread the disease.
    Either we develop a vaccine or cure or learn to live with the disease and the deaths it creates. Last night we passed a huge group of teenagers gathered in a parking lot near a beach – not one was wearing a mask or paying attention to social distancing: they feel immortal and are too callow to give thought to those vulnerable individuals to whom they might spread it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is pretty likely that you need to vaccinate between 2/3 and 3/4 of the world for herd immunity. That would still be over a billion people in India.

      Such teenagers and people in their 20s and 30s and 40s are not probably not aware that there is possibly long term damage to the heart, lungs, and (possibly) brain, that could plague them for the rest of their lives, even if they only have mild COVID.

      But, at the same time, I am more sympathetic than outraged, because I would have hated it if I hadn’t been able to meet friends outside the family during my teenage years. It is part of growing up.

      Liked by 1 person

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