Poor nations to miss out on vaccine as West buys most of it: Report

The pandemic has exposed vast inequities both within and between countries. A group of campaigning organisations have warned that nearly 70 countries may be able to vaccinate only one in ten people as wealthier nations have bought up most of the stock. 

According to the People’s Vaccine alliance, rich countries with 14% of the world’s population have bought 53% of the most promising vaccines. This basically means that they have secured enough to vaccinate each citizen at least twice while citizens in low-income countries may not be able to get vaccinated even once. Canada tops the list with enough vaccine to vaccinate each citizen at least five times. 

The People’s Vaccine alliance includes organisations like The Amnesty International, Frontline AIDS, Global Justice Now and Oxfam. The organisation used data collected by science information and analytics company Airfinity to analyze the deals done between countries and the eight leading vaccine candidates. 

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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.” 

 96% of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which was approved in the US last week, will go to rich countries. The Moderna vaccine which claims to have 95% efficacy will also go to the wealthier nations. Both these vaccines are significantly high priced and have to be stored at really low temperatures which would be a problem for a lot of countries.

Even though the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine– which claims 70% efficacy, can be stored at normal fridge temperatures and had been priced deliberately low for global access– one company cannot alone supply the whole world. 

“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 COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, so that billions more doses can be manufactured and safe and effective vaccines can be available to all who need them,” the Oxfam International press release said. 

The alliance also calls on governments to do everything to make sure that everyone has access to the vaccine- to make it a “People’s Vaccine” and not a “Profit vaccine”.

Last month in the US, more than 100 high-level leaders from public health, faith-based, racial justice, and labor organisations, joined former members of Congress, economists and artists to sign a public letter, calling on President-elect Biden seize on this extraordinary moment and power of the US President to support a People’s Vaccine. 

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.”

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