Not everyone has equal access to coronavirus vaccines, and the companies that produce them bear a large share of the responsibility. This is the conclusion of the latest Amnesty International report, entitled “A double dose of inequality. Pharmaceutical companies and the Covid-19 vaccine crisis”, and published this Wednesday.
This reveals “the urgency for states and pharmaceutical companies to implement all necessary measures to ensure efficient and equitable deployment of vaccines throughout the world.”
Violations of the COVAX system
Six companies were evaluated for this survey: AstraZeneca plc, BioNTech SE, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna Inc., Novavax Inc. and Pfizer Inc. Only Russian and Chinese companies could not be studied due to a ‘lack of’ information on their activities And according to the NGO, the “sector is seriously breaching its obligation to respect human rights.”
In fact, although the United Nations has developed the Covax system to ensure an equitable distribution of vaccines between countries, in practice things are very different. Less than 1% of the population is fully immunized in low-income countries, compared to 55% in rich countries.
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These companies are expected to generate billions by 2022, such as BioNTech, Moderna, and Pfizer, which are expected to make nearly $ 130 billion. They also deliberately choose to sell their doses at high prices, which explains the importance of deliveries to rich countries.
“So far, Pfizer and BioNTech have delivered nine times more doses of vaccine to the Swedish state alone than to all low-income countries combined,” says the NGO.
All these companies do not respect the commitments acquired with the UN. “Some of the companies evaluated continued to supply stocks in countries known to accumulate doses in large quantities,” Amnesty International said.
The trial, Moderna “has yet to deliver a single dose of vaccine to a low-income country” and “Johnson & Johnson will not meet most of its delivery commitments to Covax and the African Union before 2022.”
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Two billion doses by the end of the year?
And when it is not the companies that do not send their vaccines to these countries, others refuse to give up their intellectual property rights and share their technology. This is the case of AstraZeneca, which is the company that has delivered the most doses of vaccines to low-income countries, but which refuses to share its knowledge.
These decisions have direct consequences for the management of the health crisis in these countries. “As a result, parts of Latin America, Africa and Asia are facing new outbreaks of the virus,” Amnesty said.
To address these gaps, Amnesty calls for “two billion doses of vaccines to be delivered to low- and lower-middle-income countries by the end of 2021.” In fact, the World Health Organization had set a goal of vaccinating 40% of the population in these countries by the end of the year, and given the numbers, the goal is far from being reached.
Let’s see now if this request will be heard by Joe Biden, who will hold a summit this Wednesday on the new commitments to combat the coronavirus pandemic.