Richest countries shouldn’t hog Covid-19 vaccine, Wales’ Christian Aid says

A child is given a plaster after receiving a vaccine. Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Access to any successful vaccine must be shared with the world’s poorest people and not become a “global postcode lottery”, Christian Aid in Wales has said.

Cynan Llwyd, the charity’s Acting Head in Wales, said the drugs should be genuinely affordable to the poorest countries as well as the wealthiest.

He was responding to the news that a Covid-19 vaccine is 90% effective, according to manufacturer Pfizer/BioNTech.

The UK Government announced that it had procured 40m doses of the Pfizer vaccine, with 10m set to be manufactured by the end of the year if the jab is approved by regulators.

The US has also secured a deal for 100m doses of the vaccine, with another 500m available if needed.

“[This week’s] announcement could be a turning point in the battle to contain Covid-19 and reduce its huge toll of human suffering,” Cynan Llwyd said.

“But for that to happen, governments must back the global call for a people’s vaccine that is available to poorer countries as well as the wealthiest. Access to any successful vaccine must not become a global postcode lottery.

“We are calling on the UK and other G20 governments to coordinate a global response to the pandemic, and agree a recovery plan at the UN. The UK and other G20 countries must support the WHO initiative, made at the World Health Assembly in May, to combine research and create a global patent pool, ensuring that all drugs related to the testing, treatment, prevention and response to Covid-19 are immediately accessible and genuinely affordable to all countries.

“We noted with disappointment that the proposal to create a global patent pool, which would encourage the production of coronavirus drugs that are affordable for the poorest countries, was opposed at the World Health Assembly in May by the US, UK and Switzerland, perhaps reflecting their status as the homes of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.”

 

‘Bulk’

Christian Aid has also called, in its recent report Building Back With Justice, for governments to ensure that access to Covid-19 testing and treatment services are universally free at the point of use.

Pfizer will only able to produce 50m doses of the vaccine by the end of 2020 and another 1.3bn in 2021, leading to concerns that poorer countries will be at the back of the queue.

“Countries like the UK and US have already bulk bought a huge amount of the medicines, proving that fair global distribution has been set aside by the rich countries in their quest to get their hands on all potential vaccines first,” Nick Dearden, the director of Global Justice Now, told HuffPost UK.

The campaign group has urged Pfizer and BioNTech to put its vaccine into a World Health Organisation (WHO) global patent pool, which would allow others to manufacture and distribute the jab and increase the number of people able to be vaccinated.

Heidi Chow, the organisation’s pharmaceuticals campaigner, warned there was “nowhere near enough” of the Pfizer-manufactured vaccine to meet global demand.

“We are heading towards artificially created scarcity for this vaccine which is completely unacceptable in a global pandemic,” she said.

If Pfizer and BioNTech fail to share the vaccine patent, the WHO must suspend all patents on all Covid-19 medicines, Chow said.

“This is a race against time and we cannot allow the pursuit of profit to triumph over human need.”

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