Rich nations have cornered half of future Covid-19 vaccine supply: Oxfam

Daniel Fowler
September 18, 2020

Seth Berkley, head of the GAVI worldwide vaccine alliance based in Switzerland and the United States, told Reuters that the plan known as Covax - which aims to help purchase and fairly distribute coronavirus vaccines - now has commitments from Japan, Germany, and Norway, among 76 upper middle income and high income nations, to procure Covid-19 vaccines through the facility for their populations.

A major concern around the eagerly awaited COVID-19 vaccine is the availability of doses and fair distribution across the world, a sentiment that has reportedly been echoed by Melinda Gates.

The report noted that the very pharma companies now in the running to develop the vaccine do not have the capacity to make enough doses for all those who need it.

There are now five leading vaccine candidates in phase-3 clinical trials. The chances of some of these experiments failing is more likely, which will further increase the number of people who may not have access to the vaccine. Reports say that the company is capable of producing enough for only 475 million people, that accounts for a mere 6 percent of the world's population.

Oxfam calculated the combined production capacity of these five vaccine candidates at 5.9 billion doses, enough for three billion people given that all five future vaccines will or are highly likely to require two doses.

Rich countries, including the UK, United States, Japan and Israel - representing around 13 per cent of the world's population - have bought 51 per cent of the future supply, or around 2.7 billion doses. The remaining 2.575 billion [257 crore] doses have been bought by or promised to developing countries including India, Bangladesh, China, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico among others. These are: Gamaleya/Sputnik, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Sinovac.

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"We already face challenges with vaccine acceptance for many proven vaccines", World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in pre-recorded comments, as he spoke about the push to rapidly develop vaccines.

Oxfam is part of the People's Vaccine Alliance, a coalition calling for a jab that is based on shared knowledge and is freely available everywhere.

The UK has, for example, secured the equivalent of five vaccine doses per person.

Oxfam's pushing for a "People's Vaccine" - but it will only be possible if pharmaceutical corporations forego monopolies and allow vaccines to be produced as widely as possible. "We need a People's Vaccine, not a profit vaccine". The alliance calls for pharmaceutical corporations to share all vaccine knowledge with other companies and research institutions, including through the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP).

On Sept 3, health news portal Code Blue reported that Malaysia has not committed to joining a global Covid-19 vaccine allocation plan, co-led by the WHO.

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