People's Vaccine Alliance: Poorer Nations Are Being Left Behind

Rich nations have bought enough coronavirus vaccine doses to inoculate their entire populations nearly three times over, leaving the developing world behind amid the global effort to save lives, the People’s Vaccine Alliance has said.

The People’s Vaccine Alliance, a network of organizations including Amnesty International, Frontline AIDS, Global Justice Now and Oxfam, calls on the drug companies to openly share their technology and intellectual property so that billions more doses can be made available for those in need.

The group’s analysis claims that in 67 poorer countries, as many as 9 in 10 people can miss out on the coronavirus vaccine next year because most of the supply has already been bought up by wealthy nations, with 96% of Pfizer's vaccine and 100% of Moderna's vaccine acquired by the rich. Canada, says Oxfam, has purchased enough doses to immunize citizens five times over.

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.” 

Dr Mohga Kamal Yanni, from The People’s Vaccine Alliance, noted that in the current system, pharmaceutical companies are using public funding for research, all the way retaining exclusive rights to the technology developed. “While that boosts profits for the companies, the system could cost many lives”, he warns.

Other organizations have likewise voiced concerns about the uneven distribution of coronavirus vaccines and the prevailing motivation on part of pharmaceutical companies to ensure profit in times of the deadly crisis. Winnie Byanima, UNAIDS Executive Director, said: “Our best chance of all staying safe is to ensure a COVID-19 vaccine is available for all as a global common good. This will only be possible with a transformation in how vaccines are produced and distributed — pharmaceutical corporations must allow the COVID-19 vaccines to be produced as widely as possible by sharing their knowledge free from patents. Instead, they are protecting their monopolies and putting up barriers to restrict production and drive up prices, leaving us all in danger.”

It is also true that some significant steps are being taken to ensure access to vaccines is fairly distributed around the globe. At least 172 countries have or are considering participating in COVAX, an initiative led by the World Health Organization that aims to secure 700 million doses to be distributed between the lower-income nations.

AstraZeneca, the company manufacturing the coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford, has committed to making the vaccine available on a not-for-profit basis to the poorer nations.

While the People’s Vaccine calls this "a welcome contrast", it says Oxford/AstraZeneca could "still only reach 18% of the world's population next year at most, which demonstrates that one company alone cannot hope to supply the whole world".

See the People’s Vaccine Alliance’s full report here 

10 December 2020 14:06