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World's poorest suffer as wealthiest countries buy up vaccine supply

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Global Covid fightback hampered by rich nations hoarding - calls have been made for a People's Vaccine

The world’s poorest countries will only be able to vaccinate one in ten against Covid-19 – unless urgent action is taken.

Campaigning organisations say governments and pharmaceutical companies must be forced to create enough doses for the whole world - not just the wealthiest countries.

It is thought that as things stands, nine in 10 people will not be vaccinated in 70 of the globe’s poorest nations – because wealthier countries are scooping up available supply.

They will have bought up enough doses to vaccinate their entire populations nearly three times over by the end of 2021 if those currently in clinical trials are all approved for use.

Canada tops the chart with enough vaccines to vaccinate each Canadian five times. Rich nations representing just 14% of the world’s population have bought up 53% of all the most promising vaccines so far.

This disparity represents a global health problem in a world scale – and sets back all chances of conquering Covid globally.

Organisations, including Amnesty International, Frontline AIDS, Global Justice Now and Oxfam, which are part of an alliance calling for a People’s Vaccine, used data collected by science information and analytics company Airfinity to analyse the deals done between countries and the eight leading vaccine candidates.

They found that 67 low and lower middle-income countries risk being left behind as rich countries move towards their escape route from this pandemic. Five of the  67 – Kenya, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ukraine - have reported nearly 1.5 million cases between them.

Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s health policy manager, said: “No one should be blocked from getting a life-saving vaccine because of the country they live in or the amount of money in their pocket. But unless something changes dramatically, billions of people around the world will not receive a safe and effective vaccine for Covid-19 for years to come.” 

Heidi Chow, from Global Justice Now, said: “All pharmaceutical corporations and research institutions working on a vaccine must share the science, technological know-how, and intellectual property behind their vaccine so enough safe and effective doses can be produced. Governments must also ensure the pharmaceutical industry puts people’s lives before profits.”

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has already received approval in the UK and vaccinations have begun. Two further potential vaccines, from Moderna and Oxford in partnership with AstraZeneca  are expected to submit or are awaiting regulatory approval. The Russian vaccine, Sputnik, has announced positive trial results and four other candidates are in phase 3 clinical trials.

So far, all of Moderna’s doses and 96% of Pfizer/BioNTech’s have been acquired by rich countries. In welcome contrast Oxford/AstraZeneca has pledged to provide 64% of their doses to people in developing nations.

Yet despite their actions to scale up supply they can still only reach 18% of the world’s population next year at most. Oxford/AstraZeneca deals have also mostly been made with some of the big developing countries like China and India, while the majority of developing countries have not done deals and have to share the COVAX pool of vaccines between them.

The COVAX programme was set up by the World Health Organisation and others and tries to ensure the entire world has access to Covid-19 vaccines.

However, it has secured only a fraction of the 2 billion doses it hopes to buy over the next year, has yet to confirm any actual deals to ship out vaccines and is short on cash.

Campaigners say that individual companies cannot be relied upon – and that only worldwide co-operation will defeat Covid.

The People’s Vaccine Alliance is calling on all pharmaceutical corporations working on Covid-19 vaccines to openly share their technology and  intellectual property through the World Health Organization, so that billions more doses can be manufactured and safe and effective vaccines can be available to all who need them. 

The alliance is also calling on governments to do everything in their power to ensure vaccines are made a global public good - free of charge to the public, fairly distributed and based on need.

Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s head of economic and social justice, said: “The hoarding of vaccines actively undermines global efforts to ensure that everyone, everywhere can be protected from Covid-19. Rich countries have clear human rights obligations not only to refrain from actions that could harm access to vaccines elsewhere, but also to cooperate and provide assistance to countries that need it.

“By buying up the vast majority of the world’s vaccine supply, rich countries are in breach of their human rights obligations. Instead, by working with others to share knowledge and scale up supply, they could help bring an end to the global Covid-19 crisis.”

Momentum is mounting for a People’s vaccine, which has already been backed by Covid survivors, trade unions health experts, activists, past and present world leaders and faith leaders.



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