France 24

Covid-19 vaccine: what will happen to poor countries?

World leaders have been saying for months that the Covid-19 vaccine will have to be a “global public good”. But in fact, rich countries have already pre-ordered more than two billion doses. The NGO Oxfam denounces “their double talk”. For the past few weeks, all eyes have been on the frantic race of laboratories to find a vaccine against Covid-19. But in the background is another race, that of access to doses. Because even if no vaccine is yet available, some countries have already rushed to order, to be the first to have it when they are on the market. In total, 6.8 billion doses of potential vaccines have already been delivered. purchased, according to data compiled by an American research center attached to Duke University in North Carolina. Without forgetting the additional 2.8 billion which are either under negotiation or reserved in addition. It is clear that these advance purchases, which allow the pharmaceutical industry to finance its trials, are largely made by the countries high income. The United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada and even Japan have signed direct agreements with manufacturers to be the first served (3.7 billion doses confirmed in total). “Vaccine nationalism “still predominant A few middle-income countries manage to do their best by negotiating major direct agreements with laboratories because, as the study specifies, they either have” the capacity to manufacture “vaccines, or” infrastructure needed to host clinical trials “. This is the case in India, whose Serum Institute has committed to distributing half of the doses produced. Indonesia has joined forces with Chinese laboratories. As for Brazil, it is a partner in the trials conducted by the University of Oxford. In total, they got their hands on some 2.4 billion doses. In this rush for vaccines, the study did not identify any direct agreement between the laboratories and the so-called poor countries, which illustrates the inequality in the matter. global health issues and vaccine nationalism which is still predominant – something that is certainly not new. During the “swine flu” pandemic of 2009, the use of such agreements was so widespread that the majority of vaccine manufacturers said they were unable to supply 10% of the vaccine stock. to United Nations agencies. “The only way out is to provide a collective response” “The approach of countries to protect their populations may seem legitimate, but in a global pandemic like that of Covid-19, the the only way out is to provide a collective response, “said Robin Guittard, spokesperson for Oxfam France, interviewed by France 24.” Otherwise, at this rate, two-thirds of the world’s population will not have access to vaccines before 2022 “. In the face of this fear, the World Health Organization (WHO), but also leaders around the world are calling for vaccines to be distributed equitably around the world. “We will stop at any effort to ensure affordable access and fair (to vaccines, tests and treatments) of all, “write the presidents and world leaders in their final declaration at the meeting of the World Health Organization. Vaccinate at least 20% of the population A common fund has also been created by WHO in collaboration with the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) and the Coalition for Innovations in Epidemic Preparedness (Cepi). The initiative, which is called Covax, is based on a funding mechanism, aims to ensure the delivery of two billion doses of vaccine, so that the 160 or so signatory countries can immunize at least 20% of their population. , one billion is intended for 92 low and middle income countries, which represent half of the world’s population. The vaccines will cost these countries little or nothing. The other billion goes to 75 richer countries, which will pay for their own doses. Covax has already placed a few orders for nine candidate vaccines (over 600 million doses), such as one from British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. But the Gavi budget still lacks 3.8 billion euros. Germany has pledged € 500 million. Covax is currently negotiating with Pfizer / BioNtech and Moderna, but the stock issue is a problem. According to the Center for Global Development, 1.1 billion doses of the German-American alliance have already been reserved by the rich countries out of a total production announced of 1.3 billion doses next year. have multiplied orders so much that they could benefit from excess inventory. This is the case with Canada, which has bought enough to immunize its population five times, and the European Union (EU) which has reserved twice as many doses as it has inhabitants. Faced with the supply problem, Cepi is negotiating with high-income countries to ensure that once a certain percentage of their population has been vaccinated, part of the surplus is transferred to Covax. NGOs fear that the sharing of anticipated stocks is not based on egalitarian criteria, which leads to fears that the poorest populations would still lose. “We risk falling into a two-speed approach with the rich countries which will keep the best vaccines in terms of efficacy and safety and leave what is left to others”, predicts Robin Guittard. “Pooling the patents” At l Like other NGOs, Oxfam believes that more needs to be done to ensure global access to future vaccines. The NGO urged pharmaceutical companies to share information through the WHO’s Covid-19 technology access pool. “All vaccine manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies should pool patents to allow more production”, pleads Robin Guittard, who recalls that “no pharmaceutical company is able to ensure the production capacity to the global scale. ”To increase vaccine production, the governments of India and South Africa called on the WTO on Friday to ease regulations to temporarily lift protection for intellectual property and industrial processes. Thus, generic manufacturers could in turn produce vaccines “until most of the world’s population is immune to Covid-19.” But EU opposition on this point sparks outrage from Oxfam. Especially when the leaders meeting the next day at the G20 plead for equitable access to the vaccine. Robin Guittard denounces the double talk of European leaders who call for making vaccines a “global public good” while maintaining the race for vaccines.