Wealthy nations accused of hoarding cans

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Sister Paula McMahon (R) prepares a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for Grace Thomson (L) on December 8, 2020 at Louisa Jordan Hospital in Glasgow as Britain embarks on largest vaccination program of all time.

Jeff J. Mitchell | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON – A coalition of campaign organizations has warned people in lower-income countries that they are unlikely to receive a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine in the years to come.

The People’s Vaccine Alliance, an organization that includes Amnesty International, Global Justice Now and Oxfam, said rich nations had bought enough doses to vaccinate their entire population nearly three times by the end of 2021.

Canada tops the list with enough doses to vaccinate every citizen five times, the group said. In contrast, nearly 70 lower-income countries can only vaccinate 1 in 10 people against the coronavirus next year.

Reuters reported last month, citing three unnamed sources, that Canada was talking to other governments about a plan to donate some doses of Covid-19 to lower-income countries.

The People’s Vaccine Alliance cited data from science intelligence and analytics firm Airfinity to analyze business between countries and the top eight coronavirus vaccine candidates. The group assumed that the coronavirus vaccines currently in clinical trials are all approved for use.

“No one should be prevented from receiving a life-saving vaccine because of the country they live in or the amount of money in their pocket,” said Anna Marriott, health policy manager at Oxfam, in a statement.

“But if nothing changes dramatically, billions of people around the world will not receive a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 in the years to come.”

Rich countries violate human rights obligations

The report comes at a time when many are confident that a mass vaccination program could help end the coronavirus pandemic that killed over 1.56 million people worldwide.

However, a global battle to ensure the likely supply of Covid-19 vaccines has raised alarms about equitable access, while questions about logistics, distribution, and possibly above all costs remain open.

The UK unveiled the first coronavirus vaccines to the public on Tuesday. Ninety-year-old Margaret Keenan made history as the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine outside of the trial conditions. The vaccine was approved by the UK Medicines Agency last week and is expected to be approved by other countries in the coming days.

Two other potential vaccine candidates from Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca are expected to submit data to regulators or await approval.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau puts on a protective mask after a press conference on Friday, September 25, 2020 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

David Kawai | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The People’s Vaccine Alliance said wealthy nations, representing only 14% of the total world population, have bought 53% of all promising vaccines to date.

So far, the alliance announced that all doses of Moderna and 96% of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine were purchased from rich countries. Oxford-AstraZeneca has pledged to deliver 64% of their cans to people in developing countries.

“Vaccine hoarding is actively undermining global efforts to ensure that everyone, everywhere, can be protected from COVID-19. Rich countries have clear human rights obligations not only to refrain from action that could affect access to vaccines elsewhere, but also to work together and provide assistance to countries in need, “Steve Cockburn, director of economic and social justice at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

“By purchasing the vast majority of the world’s vaccine supplies, rich countries are violating their human rights obligations. By instead working with others to share knowledge and expand supply, they could help end the global COVID-19 crisis,” added he added.

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