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Eli Lilly CEO: There will be enough COVID-19 vaccine for 'entire world' by next summer

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Drug manufacturers will produce enough COVID-19 vaccine doses for the "entire world" by next summer, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly (LLY) CEO David Ricks tells Yahoo Finance in a new interview. 

The roughly yearlong timeline for attaining a global vaccine supply could render unnecessary the lengthy deliberations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive intellectual property protections for the vaccines, Ricks said. 

The prediction from Ricks comes days after G-7 countries outlined a plan to end the global pandemic by December 2022, and provide an additional 1 billion vaccine doses.

"By next summer, we'll have enough vaccines to vaccinate the world," Ricks says.

"By my calculations, there'll be something between 10 and 12 billion doses in 2022, which is more than enough to vaccinate the adult world," he later adds.

A health worker administers the Covishield, Serum Institute of India's version of the AstraZeneca vaccine, during a special vaccination drive for students traveling overseas, in Hyderabad, India, Friday, June 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)
A health worker administers the Covishield, Serum Institute of India's version of the AstraZeneca vaccine, during a special vaccination drive for students traveling overseas, in Hyderabad, India, Friday, June 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)

President Joe Biden announced last week that the U.S. would purchase 500 million doses of the vaccine to provide for mid- and low-income countries — a boost for the global vaccination effort that will still only cover roughly 3% of the world's population. 

As of Wednesday, more than 2.42 billion vaccine doses have been administered across the globe, which amounts to 31 doses per 100 people, according to The New York Times

Wealthy countries have vaccinated their populations at a much faster rate than poor ones, prompting backlash among advocates who've called on rich countries to share vaccine doses.

Advocates have called on the WTO to waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines in an effort to ramp up production worldwide. The pharmaceutical industry has opposed the effort, but the Biden administration in May came out in support of lifting the protections.

The European Union has fought against the effort to waive the patent protections, instead proposing an alternative solution that would protect the intellectual property but also speed up production, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month. Negotiations at the WTO over the waiver could take months.

Ricks, who opposes the waiver, said the current rate of vaccine production could outpace WTO negotiations, making them of little use.  

"The process through the World Trade Organization to get a waiver is a consensus driven process," he says. "Which is slow because anything that is a three letter agency in Geneva is slow by definition, and requires a broad consensus, already European Union's opposing it."

"So that tells you this is a not a not a weeks or months thing, it's going to be more," he adds. "And the longer it takes, the less need perhaps there is for it."

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