UK campaign group Global Justice Now has warned that over 80% of vaccine doses have already been brought by 14% of the global population.
Last weeks announcement of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine was globally well-received, given the desire to return to normality and mounting political and economic pressures.
The process of returning to normality in the UK was developed in September by Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation, which set out a vaccination scheme staggered by priority and Covid-risk; beginning with older adults’ in care homes and care workers, then moving down age groups until 50 years of age, and afterwards vaccinating the rest of the public.
Unequal distribution of the Pfizer vaccine
However internationally, Global Justice Now has warned that priority for the Pfizer vaccine has so far been given to the most privileged countries. Their analysis shows that over 1 billion doses have already been sold to the wealthiest countries – 82% of Pfizer’s production capacity till the end of next year.
Big purchases include the EU with 200-300 million doses, the UK with 40 million, and the USA with 100-500 million doses. The countries that have secured advanced supplies of the vaccine represent 14% of the global population.
In an open letter earlier this year a multitude of international aid and development organisations called on the Government to suspend patent rules, and encourage others to do the same, for medicines and technologies funded by the public purse; so to prevent large pharmaceutical companies profiteering from the pandemic, and make treatments affordable globally.
Nick Darden, director of Global Justice Now, said: "On the one hand, the British Government is helping limit supply of these drugs by insisting on global patent rules that prevent countries producing their own generic vaccines. On the other, it is buying up as much of that limited supply as it can, so there are no vaccines left for developing countries.”
“It is imperative that we end the vaccine nationalism, and that sufficient supply is made available to all, on a fair basis, as a matter of urgency. That can be helped by supporting governments like South Africa and India who are trying to suspend intellectual property rules at the WTO during this global emergency."
Equal distribution to middle- and lower-income countries has been guaranteed by the international scheme COVAX, which was set up as a mechanism for collective bulk buying of potential Covid-19 vaccines – making any successful vaccine available for all countries involved. COVAX, therefore, acts, according to the Gavi COVAX website, as an insurance policy for wealthy and poorer nations alike, to prevent a cash and grab approach in accessing effective vaccines.
But the Pfizer vaccine is not currently part of the COVAX agreement; Global Justice Now predicts that it will be likely offered to developing countries through COVAX over the coming weeks. Although after rich countries have undermined international efforts for a fair distribution mechanism, through mass purchase of the vaccine.