A coalition of campaigning bodies has warned people in lower-income countries are likely to miss out on a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine for years to come, accusing richer nations of “hoarding” more doses of Covid-19 shots than they need.
The People’s Vaccine Alliance, an organization including Amnesty International, Global Justice Now and Oxfam, said wealthy nations had bought up enough doses to vaccinate their entire populations nearly three times over by the end of 2021.
Canada tops the list with enough doses to vaccinate each citizen five times over, the group said. In contrast, nearly 70 lower-income countries will only be able to vaccinate one in 10 people against the coronavirus next year.
Reuters reported last month, citing three unnamed sources, that Canada was in talks with other governments about a plan to donate some Covid-19 doses to lower income-income countries.
The People’s Vaccine Alliance cited data collected by science information and analytics company Airfinity to analyze the deals done between countries and the eight leading coronavirus vaccine candidates. The group said it assumed the coronavirus vaccines currently in clinical trials were all approved for use.
“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,” Anna Marriott, health policy manager at Oxfam, said in a statement.
“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.”
Rich countries ‘in breach’ of human rights obligations
The report comes at a time when many are hopeful a mass vaccination program could help bring an end to the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed over 1.56 million lives worldwide.
However, a global battle to secure prospective supplies of Covid-19 vaccines has raised alarm about equitable access, while questions remain over logistics, distribution, and, perhaps most significantly, cost.
The U.K. on Tuesday rolled out the first coronavirus vaccines to the public, with 90-year-old Margaret Keenan making history as the world’s first person to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine outside of trial conditions. The vaccine was approved by the U.K. drug regulator last week and it is seen as likely to receive approval from other countries in the coming days.
Two other prospective vaccine candidates, from Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca, are expected to submit data to regulators or are awaiting approval.
The People’s Vaccine Alliance said rich nations representing just 14% of the world’s entire population had bought up 53% of all of the promising vaccines so far.
To date, the alliance said all of Moderna’s doses and 96% of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine had been acquired by rich countries. In what it described as a “welcome contrast,” Oxford-AstraZeneca has pledged to provide 64% of their doses to people in developing nations.
“The hoarding of vaccines actively undermines global efforts to ensure that everyone, everywhere can be protected from COVID-19. Rich countries have clear human rights obligations not only to refrain from actions that could harm access to vaccines elsewhere, but also to cooperate and provide assistance to countries that need it,” Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s head of economic and social justice, said in a statement.
“By buying up the vast majority of the world’s vaccine supply, rich countries are in breach of their human rights obligations. Instead, by working with others to share knowledge and scale up supply, they could help bring an end to the global COVID-19 crisis,” he added.