Rich countries have ordered too many Covid-19 vaccine doses - and poorer nations will suffer

Wednesday, 9th December 2020, 11:56 am
Updated Wednesday, 9th December 2020, 11:56 am

A coalition of campaigning bodies has warned that people living in poor countries are likely to miss out on the Covid-19 vaccine due to rich countries “hoarding” doses of the injections.

The People’s Vaccine Alliance has said that wealthier countries have bought up enough doses to immunise their entire populations nearly three times over by the end of next year, if vaccines currently in clinical trials are all approved for use.

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Canada tops the list here, with enough vaccines to vaccinate each Canadian five times. Updated data shows that rich nations, representing just 14 per cent of the world’s population, have bought up 53 per cent of all the most promising vaccines so far.

The alliance, which includes organisations such as Oxfam and Amnesty International, said that 67 poorer countries around the world will only be able to vaccinate one in 10 people against the virus next year.

Five of these 67 countries - Kenya, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ukraine - have reported nearly 1.5 million cases of coronavirus between them.

‘Urgent action needed’

The group is asking governments to take “urgent action,” as well as calling for the pharmaceutical industry to share technological and intellectual property through the World Health Organisation (WHO) to ensure that enough vaccine doses are produced for a global rollout.

Analysing deals done between countries and the eight leading vaccine candidates, the campaigners found that 67 low and lower middle income countries risk being left behind.

The group reported that, so far, all of Moderna’s vaccine doses and 96 per cent of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines have been bought up by rich countries.

Oxford/AstraZeneca has pledged to provide 64 per cent of their doses to people in developing nations, however this will only be able to reach 18 per cent of the world’s population next year at home.

“This demonstrates that one company alone cannot hope to supply the whole world, and that only open sharing of technology between vaccine producers can make this possible,” the People’s Vaccine Alliance said.

‘In breach of human rights obligations’

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.”

Dr Mohga Kamal Yanni, from The People’s Vaccine Alliance, said, “The current system, where pharmaceutical corporations use government funding for research, retain exclusive rights and keep their technology secret to boost profits, could cost many lives.”

‘Billions will not receive a vaccine’

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.”

WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has repeatedly warned that “no-one is safe until everyone is safe.”