Developing countries including Nigeria are being left behind in the global sprint to end the coronavirus pandemic because the majority of the most promising vaccines have been bought up by the West, campaigners have said.
As the first people get vaccinated in the UK, the People’s Vaccine Alliance is warning that the deals done by rich countries’ governments will leave the poor at the mercy of the rampaging virus. Rich countries with 14% of the world’s population have secured 53% of the most promising vaccines.
The alliance, which includes Amnesty International, Frontline AIDS, Global Justice Now and Oxfam, said nine out of 10 people in 70 low-income countries are unlikely to be vaccinated against Covid-19 next year.
But Canada has bought more doses per head of population than any other – enough to vaccinate each Canadian five times, said the alliance.
“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,” said Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s health policy manager.
“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.”
The alliance has used data from science information and analytics company Airfinity to analyse the global deals with 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 the pandemic. Five of the 67 – Kenya, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ukraine – have reported nearly 1.5 million cases between them.
Nigeria has surpassed over 70, 000 cases, with the country on Tuesday recording its highest daily tally since late August, raising fears of a second wave of the pandemic.
Supplies of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will almost all go to rich countries – 96% of doses have been bought by the west. The Moderna vaccine uses a similar technology, which also is claimed to have 95% efficacy, and is going exclusively to rich countries. The prices of both vaccines are high and access for low-income countries will be complicated by the ultra-low temperatures at which they need to be stored.
AstraZeneca, the company manufacturing the Covid vaccine developed by the University of Oxford, has committed to making it available on a not-for-profit basis to the developing world.
It is cheaper than the others and can be stored at fridge temperatures, making it easier to distribute across the globe.
But campaigners say one company on its own cannot supply enough vaccines for the whole world.
The group is calling on all pharmaceutical corporations working on Covid-19 vaccines to openly share their technology and intellectual property so that billions more doses can be manufactured and made available to everyone who needs them.
It says this can be done through the World Health Organization Covid-19 technology access pool.
Rita Osakwe/Agency Reports