Latin American nations seek more time to join World Health Organization vaccine plan

Andrew Cummings
September 18, 2020

Supply deals have been agreed for 5.3bn doses, Oxfam found, of which 2.7bn have been bought by developed countries.

A handful of wealthy nations have bought up more than half of the potential doses of the most promising Covid-19 vaccines, according to an Oxfam count.

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 worldwide agency has also warned that the same companies making vaccines might not have the capacity to make enough vaccines for everyone who requires one.

The data collected by the analytics company Airfinity, an NGO, analyzed deals struck by pharmaceuticals and vaccine producers for the five leading vaccine candidates now in the final stages of trials. 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 USA to around $35 per dose for other countries - putting protection out of reach for many people living in poverty.

A calculation has pegged the combined production capacity of the 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", the report said.

But more than 2.7 billion (272 crore) doses, or 51%, have been already bought by countries including Australia, Britain, Israel, Japan, Switzerland, the United States, and the European Union, it added.

"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.

The analysis comes amid swelling calls from global leaders, health experts, and groups including Oxfam for a so-called people's vaccine for the novel coronavirus. "We need a People's Vaccine, not a profit vaccine".

Brazil's central government has an agreement to test and buy the AstraZeneca vaccine, while Sao Paulo state is testing one developed by China's Sinovac Biotech and the states of Paraná and Bahia reached deals for Russia's Sputnik V vaccine. It blamed the grim forecast on pharmaceutical corporations' desire to "protect their monopolies" and sell the life-saving vaccines to the "highest bidder" instead of "freely sharing them" with the world. No single corporation will ever be able to meet the world's need for a COVID-19 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).

The IMF projects the loss to the world economy due to Covid-19 to total $12 trillion.

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