A new report has found that as many as 90% of the population in dozens of poorer countries will miss the coronavirus vaccine next year because most of the supply has already been taken by rich countries.
The People’s Vaccine Alliance says rich countries have racked up enough doses to immunize their entire population nearly three times.
That leaves at least 67 poor countries with just enough to immunize one in 10 people, unless governments and the pharmaceutical industry take urgent action, the alliance, which includes Amnesty International and Oxfam, has warned.
Five of the 67 – Kenya, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ukraine – have reported nearly 1.5 million cases of coronavirus between them.
In contrast, wealthy countries and the economies that are home to 14% of the world’s population purchased 53% of the total stock of the most promising vaccines last month.
This includes the European Union, the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, Australia, Hong Kong, Macao, New Zealand, Israel and Kuwait.
“The hoarding of vaccines actively undermines global efforts to ensure that everyone, everywhere, can be protected from COVID-19,” said Steve Cockburn, head of economic and social justice at Amnesty International.
“Rich countries have clear human rights obligations not only to refrain from any action that might hinder access to vaccines elsewhere, but also to cooperate and provide assistance to countries in need.
“Dramatic action required”
According to Oxfam, Canada has purchased enough doses to immunize its population five times more.
South Korea, another major global economy, has purchased enough vaccines for 88% of its population of over 50 million people.
Meanwhile, the Philippines, considered a developing country, has so far only got 2.6 million doses for delivery next year. This only covers 1.3 million people out of its total population of over 100 million.
“No one should be prevented from getting vaccinated because of the country they live in or the amount of money they have in their pockets,” said Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s health policy manager.
“But unless something drastically changes, billions of people around the world will not receive a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 in the years to come.”
The UK began rolling out its vaccine on Tuesday, becoming the first country in the world to deliver the long-awaited inoculation against a disease that has already infected millions of people around the world and killed around two million more.
The alliance analyzed data, including contracts between countries and drug companies, to arrive at their findings and recommendations, according to the report.
Of the three vaccines for which efficacy results have been announced, almost all available doses of two of them – Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech – have already been procured by wealthy countries, the Alliance noted. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is discussing the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this month.
Dr Mohga Kamal Yanni, People’s Vaccine Alliance, noted that under the current system, pharmaceutical companies use public funds for research, but retain exclusive rights to the technology developed.
While this increases corporate profits, the system “could cost many lives,” he warned.
Dr Sidney Wong, co-executive director of the Médecins Sans Frontières (Médecins Sans Frontières or MSF) access campaign urged pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Moderna to increase the production of vaccine doses.
“What we really want to see is a rapid expansion of the global global supply, so there are more vaccines to circulate and doses can be assigned according to WHO public health criteria (World Organization health), not a country’s ability to pay.
MSF says companies need to share intellectual property (IP), technology, data and know-how, so that vaccines can be produced as widely as possible and at affordable prices. He noted that Moderna was the only company to date that had promised not to enforce its patents during the pandemic, but unlike AstraZeneca, however, it did not commit to selling the vaccine “for no profit.”
“By withholding critical information such as the costs of R&D, clinical trials and manufacturing, governments and pharmaceutical companies are shirking their responsibilities to the taxpayers and public entities that have funded the development of these vaccines and that will pay them, ”said Dana Gill, US. Political advisor for the MSF access campaign.
“Without transparency, the public cannot assess fair prices and governments cannot negotiate lower prices based on real costs. No business should be allowed to profit from this pandemic. “