Scores of poorer countries around the world are waiting nervously to see if the multilateral Covax program will deliver the coronavirus vaccines they need to stem the pandemic — even though some rich nations are forging ahead with immunization.

The scheme was set up in June by Gavi, a vaccine alliance with the goal of increasing access to immunization in poor countries; the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI); and the World Health Organization. It aims to ensure the equitable global distribution of vaccines, initially by providing 2bn doses to participating countries in 2021.

At least two-thirds of those doses will go for free to 92 lower-income economies, and Covax says it is on course to hit the target. But, more than two months after western countries started vaccinating their populations, Covax is yet to deliver its first doses, leaving many poorer countries without any vaccines with which to start inoculations.

“Covax is lagging because they lacked the purchasing power to come to the table while the others were busy making deals,” said Jenny Ottenhoff, senior policy director at the ONE Campaign against global poverty.