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Small group of rich nations have bought up 51% of COVID-19 vaccine supply – The News Minute

Oxfam and other organizations across the world are calling for a People’s Vaccine ―available to everyone, free of charge and distributed fairly based on need.

Oxfam International has issued a statement warning that wealthy nations, representing just 13 percent of the world’s population, have already cornered more than half (51 percent) of the promised doses of leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates. The international agency has also warned that the same companies making vaccines might not have the capacity to make enough vaccines for everyone who requires one. 

There are currently five leading vaccine candidates in phase-3 clinical trials. However, even if all the five vaccines succeed, which is extremely unlikely to happen, nearly two thirds (61 percent) of the world’s population will not have a vaccine until at least 2022. 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. 

Oxfam is a global movement of people who are fighting inequality to beat poverty together. As the Health and Finance Ministers of G20 countries are set to meet to discuss the global pandemic in a virtual meeting, Oxfam warned that a small group of rich nations have bought up more than half the future supply of leading COVID-19 vaccine contenders. 

According to Oxfam, Moderna, one of the leading vaccine candidates, has received $2.48 billion in committed taxpayer’s money. However, the company stated that it intends to make a profit from its vaccine and has therefore sold the options for all of its supply to rich nations. The prices range from $12-16 in the US per dose and around $35 per dose in other countries. 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. 

Therefore Oxfam and other similar organisations across the world are calling for a People’s Vaccine, that can be availed by everyone and is free of charge being distributed fairly based on the requirement. 

However, this can only be possible if pharmaceutical corporations allow vaccines to be produced as widely as possible by sharing their knowledge free of patents, rather than selling to the highest bidder. 

“Governments will prolong this crisis in all of its human tragedy and economic damage if they allow pharmaceutical companies to protect their monopolies and profits. No single corporation will ever be able to meet the world’s need for a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s why we are calling on them to share their knowledge free of patents and to get behind a quantum leap in production to keep everyone safe. We need a People’s Vaccine, not a profit vaccine,” said Chema Vera, Interim Executive Director of Oxfam International. 

To provide a vaccine for everyone across the world, the estimated cost is less than 1 percent of the projected cost of COVID-19 to the global economy. Oxfam added that pharmaceutical companies should share their vaccine knowledge free of patents as that can lead to production being scaled up as fast as possible. 

As calculated by Oxfam, the combined production capacity of the five vaccine candidates is 5.94 billion doses, which is only enough for 2.97 billion people given that all five future vaccines will or are highly likely to require two doses. Supply deals for 5.303 billion doses have already been agreed upon. Out of these, 2.728 billion (51 percent) have already been bought by developed countries such as the UK, US, Australia, Hong Kong & Macau, Japan, Switzerland and Israel, as well as the European Union. 

The remaining 2.575 billion doses have either been bought by or promised to developing countries that include India, Bangladesh, China, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico to name a few. 

The agency has therefore come up with  ‘People’s Vaccine Alliance’, that is a coalition of organisations and activists united under a common aim of campaigning for a ‘people’s vaccine’ for COVID-19 which is based on shared knowledge and is made available freely to everyone everywhere. 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).