Rich countries like US and UK have bought 51% of future Covid-19 vaccine supply, says report

Experts caution that nearly two-thirds of the world’s population would not have a vaccine until at least 2022

                            Rich countries like US and UK have bought 51% of future Covid-19 vaccine supply, says report
(Getty Images)

A handful of rich nations that represent just 13% of the world’s population have bought 51% of the potential doses of leading Covid-19 vaccine candidates, according to a report by Oxfam, an international confederation of NGOs. These wealthy countries — which include the US, the UK, Australia, Hong Kong and Macau, Japan, Switzerland, Israel, and the European Union — have purchased 2.7M doses.

"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," says Chema Vera, interim executive director of Oxfam International.

According to the report, nine Covid-19 vaccines are currently going through phase 3 clinical trials, of which supply deals have been made public for five. Oxfam said it made the estimates after analyzing deals made by pharmaceutical companies and vaccine producers with countries for these five leading vaccine candidates, which are being developed by AstraZeneca, Gamaleya/Sputnik, Moderna, Pfizer and Sinovac. Data on vaccine supply and production for the study was provided by Airfinity, a data and science analytics company.

The five companies have a combined production capacity to make 5.9B doses, which will be sufficient to cover close to 3B people if everyone needs two doses. The study reveals that of these, the supply deals have already been secured for 5.3B. The authors warn that these same companies do not have the capacity to make enough vaccines for everyone who needs one. They explain that "even in the extremely unlikely event that all five vaccines succeed," nearly two thirds or 61% of the world’s population will not have a vaccine until at least 2022. It is far more likely some of these experiments will fail, leaving the number of people without access even higher, emphasizes the team.

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

Nine Covid-19 vaccines are currently going through phase 3 clinical trials, of which supply deals have been made public for five (Getty Images)

The remaining 2.575 billion doses have been bought by or promised to developing countries including India, Bangladesh, China, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico, among others. "Included within the supply for developing countries are the 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine pledged to the Covax Advanced Market Commitment (AMC), the vaccine pooling mechanism. To avoid double-counting we have assumed the recent additional agreement between the AMC and the Serum Institute of India to ‘accelerate’ the production of 100 million AstraZeneca or Novavax vaccines is already captured within those companies’ respective supply deals with the Serum Institute," say researchers.

According to the authors, the vaccine deals also highlight massive inequalities between countries. The UK government has managed to secure deals on several leading vaccine candidates, equivalent to five doses per head of population. By contrast, Oxfam analysis reveals that Bangladesh has so far secured only one dose for every nine people, says the analysis. 

"There are also large differences in the willingness of pharmaceutical companies to set aside supply for poorer nations. While Moderna has so far pledged doses of its vaccine exclusively to rich countries, AstraZeneca has pledged two-thirds (66%) of doses to developing countries. Although AstraZeneca has done most to expand its production capacity by partnering with and transferring its technology to other manufacturers, it could still only supply up to 38% of the global population, and only half of this if its vaccine requires two doses," the findings state.

Oxfam is part of the People's Vaccine Alliance, a coalition of organizations and activists united under a common aim of campaigning for a ‘people’s vaccine’ for Covid-19 "that is based on shared knowledge and is freely available to everyone everywhere". "We in the AIDS movement have seen in the past how corporations use monopolies to artificially restrict supplies of life-saving medicines and inflate their prices. UNAIDS and other members of the People’s Vaccine Alliance are calling for a new approach that puts public health first by sharing knowledge and maximizing supply. Anything short of that will lead to more deaths and economic chaos, forcing millions into destitution," emphasizes Winnie Byanyima, executive director of UNAIDS and under-secretary-general. 

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