Wealthy countries, as per documents leaked to BBC, are “blocking proposals” to help developing nations increase their COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing capabilities. These wealthy countries are the United Kingdom, US and the European Union.
The report highlights that with richer nations pushing on provisions in international law, several poorer countries have asked the WHO for help. Many experts say equitable access to vaccines is essential to prevent cases and deaths, and to contribute to global population immunity.
According to The Guardian, rich countries with 14% of the world’s population have secured 53% of the best vaccines. Almost all of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines will go to rich countries. The Moderna vaccine will go to rich countries exclusively; it is not even being offered to the poor. In fact, nine out of 10 people in poor countries may never be vaccinated at all.
It has to be brought to the fore that Washington is hoarding vaccines, making sure no one gets any, while the US needs them. The European Union has exported 34 million doses to, of all places, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong – countries that have no problem sourcing or paying for vaccines. The EU sent about 9 million doses to the UK, a country which is no longer a member of the bloc, also has what amounts in practice to an export ban of its own.
South Africa, Africa’s worst-hit country, is buying Oxford’s AstraZeneca vaccine at nearly two and a half times the per-unit price of European countries. AstraZeneca’s French division, told the media in November 2020, that it was capping the price per dose at €2.50, but somehow European countries are buying doses below the cap and African countries far above it. In comparison, Canada has bought more doses per head than anyone else, enough doses to vaccinate every single Canadian “five times over”. And then there is the entire continent of Africa, home to 1.3 billion people, which has been allocated a total of 300 million doses.
Ellen t’Hoen, an expert in medicines policy and intellectual property law, says the global capacity for producing vaccines is about a third of what is needed. “These are vaccines that are produced in wealthy countries and are in general kept by those wealthy countries. Developing nations are saying we need to have a share of the pie, not only the share of the vaccines, but also the share of the right to produce these vaccines,” she explained.
The World Health Organization had earlier warned that the world was on the brink of a “catastrophic moral failure”. But the COVID-19 has also taught countries to look after its own people. Models like Vietnam, New Zealand, Iceland, Rwanda, smaller countries, striving countries, poorer countries – these countries protected their populations, they set protocols in motion and saved lives.