Coronavirus Updates

Rich countries snap up more than half of the promised Covid-19 vaccine supply

Wealthy nations representing just 13 percent of the world’s population have already cornered more than half (51 percent) of the promised doses of leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates, according to Oxfam.

The London-based humanitarian group said it had analyzed the deals that pharmaceutical corporations and vaccine producers have already struck with nations around the world.

The five leading vaccine producers are currently in phase 3 clinical trials.

Oxfam said it calculated the combined production capacity of these five vaccine candidates at 5.94 billion doses, enough for 2.97 billion people given that all five future vaccines will or are highly likely to require two doses based on data collected by analytics company Airfinity.

Beyond the five leading vaccine candidates, Oxfam added that reported vaccine deals also reveal stark inequalities between countries.

The UK government, for example, has managed to secure deals on several leading vaccine candidates equivalent to five doses per head of population.

By contrast, Oxfam said, its analysis reveals that Bangladesh has so far secured only one dose for every nine people.

There are also large differences in the willingness of pharmaceutical companies to set aside supply for poorer nations.

The international agency also warned that the same companies simply do not have the capacity to make enough vaccines for everyone who needs one, adding that even in the extremely unlikely event that all five vaccines succeed, nearly two thirds (61 percent) of the world’s population will not have a vaccine until at least 2022.

“The calculations expose a broken system that protects the monopolies and profits of pharmaceutical corporations and favours wealthy nations, while artificially restricting production and leaving most of the world’s population waiting longer than necessary for a vaccine.“

Oxfam says one of the leading vaccine candidates, developed by the US-based company Moderna, has received $2.48 billion in committed taxpayer’s money.

“Despite this, the company has said it intends to make a profit from its vaccine and has sold the options for all of its supply to rich nations ―at prices that range from $12-16 per dose in the US to around $35 per dose for other countries― putting protection out of reach for many people living in poverty.”

Oxfam, along with other organizations across the world are calling for a People’s Vaccine ―available to everyone, free of charge and distributed fairly based on need.

Covid-19 vaccine trialsThis will only be possible, the group said, if pharmaceutical corporations allow vaccines to be produced as widely as possible by freely sharing their knowledge free of patents, instead of protecting their monopolies and selling to the highest bidder.

Chema Vera, Interim Executive Director of Oxfam International, said: “Governments will prolong this crisis in all of its human tragedy and economic damage if they allow pharmaceutical companies to protect their monopolies and profits.”

“No single corporation will ever be able to meet the world’s need for a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s why we are calling on them to share their knowledge free of patents and to get behind a quantum leap in production to keep everyone safe. We need a People’s Vaccine, not a profit vaccine.”

While Moderna has so far pledged doses of its vaccine exclusively to rich countries, AstraZeneca has pledged two-thirds (66 percent) of doses to developing countries.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS and Under-Secretary General, said: “We in the AIDS movement have seen in the past how corporations use monopolies to artificially restrict supplies of life-saving medicines and inflate their prices.

“Anything short of that will lead to more deaths and economic chaos, forcing millions into destitution.”

The economic case for requiring pharmaceutical companies to share their vaccine knowledge free of patents so that production can be scaled up as fast as possible could not be clearer, the agency said.

Nine COVID-19 vaccines are currently going through phase 3 clinical trials, of which supply deals have been made public for five.

These vaccines are being developed by AstraZeneca, Gamaleya/Sputnik, Moderna, Pfizer and Sinovac.

Supply deals have already been agreed for 5.303 billion doses, of which 2.728 billion (51 percent) have been bought by developed countries including the UK, US, Australia, Hong Kong & Macau, Japan, Switzerland and Israel, as well as the European Union.

The remaining 2.575 billion doses have been bought by or promised to developing countries including India, Bangladesh, China, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico among others.

Oxfam says the IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook from June 2020 projected the cumulative loss to the global economy for 2020 and 2021 at $12 trillion.

Using data provided by the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, Oxfam has calculated that the estimated cost to research, make, procure and distribute a vaccine to everyone on the planet could cost $70.6 billion.

Therefore, it says, the cost of providing a vaccine for everyone on Earth is equivalent to 0.59% of cost of COVID-19 to the global economy.

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