People's Stories Equality

Small group of rich nations buys up more than half the future supply of leading COVID-19 vaccines
by People’s Vaccine Alliance, Oxfam, agencies
Sep. 2020
Small group of rich nations buys up more than half the future supply of leading COVID-19 vaccine contenders, reports Oxfam America a member of the People’s Vaccine Alliance.
Wealthy nations representing just 13 percent of the world’s population have already cornered more than half (51 percent) of the promised doses of leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates, Oxfam warned today, as the health and finance ministers of G20 countries prepare to meet virtually to discuss the global pandemic.
Oxfam analyzed the deals that pharmaceutical corporations and vaccine producers have already struck with nations around the world for the five leading vaccine candidates currently in phase 3 clinical trials, based on data collected by Airfinity.
“Access to a life-saving vaccine shouldn’t depend on where you live or how much money you have,” said Robert Silverman, Advocacy Manager in Oxfam America’s Private Sector Department. “The development and approval of a safe and effective vaccine is crucial, but equally important is making sure the vaccines are available and affordable to everyone. COVID-19 anywhere is COVID-19 everywhere.”
The efforts of rich countries, especially the US, to adopt a “me first” nationalistic approach prevents coordination and could prevent or delay the vaccine from reaching people who are at greatest risk, both living in developing countries and here at home, warned Oxfam.
Oxfam also warned that that corporations with leading vaccine candidates do not have the capacity to make enough vaccines for everyone who needs one. Even in the extremely unlikely event that all five vaccines succeed, nearly two thirds (61%) of the world’s population will not have a vaccine until at least 2022. It’s far more likely some of these experiments will fail, leaving the number of people without access even higher.
The calculations expose a broken system that protects the monopolies and profits of pharmaceutical corporations and favors wealthy nations, while artificially restricting production and leaving most of the world’s population waiting longer than necessary for a vaccine.
One of the leading vaccine candidates, developed by Moderna, has received $2.48 billion in committed taxpayers’ money. Despite this, the company has said it intends to make a profit from its vaccine and has sold the options for all of its supply to rich nations - at prices that range from $12-16 per dose in the US to around $35 per dose for other countries - putting protection out of reach for many people living in poverty.
While it may be making real efforts to scale up supply, according to reports, the company only has the capacity in place to produce enough for 475 million people, or 6 percent of the world’s population.
Oxfam and other organizations across the world are calling for a people’s vaccine – available to everyone, free of charge and distributed fairly based on need.
This will only be possible if pharmaceutical corporations allow vaccines to be produced as widely as possible by freely sharing their knowledge free of patents, instead of protecting their monopolies and selling to the highest bidder.
“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,” said Chema Vera, Interim Executive Director of Oxfam International.
“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.”
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 percent) of doses to developing countries. Although AstraZeneca has done a great deal to expand its production capacity by partnering with and transferring its technology to other manufacturers, it could still only supply up to 38 percent of the global population, and only half of this if its vaccine requires two doses.
“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,” Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS and Under-Secretary General.
“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.”
The estimated cost of providing a vaccine for everyone on Earth is less than 1 percent of the projected cost of COVID-19 to the global economy. The economic case for requiring pharmaceutical companies to share their vaccine knowledge free of patents so that production can be scaled up as fast as possible could not be clearer, the agency said.
22 Sep. 2020
WHO-backed programme to facilitate poor countries' access to coronavirus vaccines, remains short of necessary funding. (AFP)
More than 60 developed nations have joined a WHO-backed programme to facilitate poor countries' access to coronavirus vaccines, but the US and China are not on the list published Monday.
The World Health Organization has in coordination with the global vaccine alliance group Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) created a mechanism aimed at ensuring a more equitable distribution of any future Covid-19 vaccines.
But the mechanism, known as Covax, has struggled to raise the funds needed to provide for the 92 low-income countries and other economies that quickly signed up.
WHO had encouraged richer nations to step up to the plate by the end of last week and when the deadline fell, 64 were onboard with another 38 expected to join in "coming days", the three organisations said in a joint statement.
Among those who have signed up are "the European Commission on behalf of 27 EU member states plus Norway and Iceland," it said.
The United States, which under President Donald Trump has relentlessly criticised the WHO's handling of the pandemic and which is in the process of withdrawing from the organisation, is not on the list. And China, where the novel coronavirus first surfaced late last year, is also absent.
"The purpose of the Covax facility is to try to work with every country in the world," Gavi chief Seth Berkley told a virtual briefing when asked about China's absence from the list."I can assure you that we have had conversations and will continue to have conversations with all countries," he said.
In addition to working to get more countries to join Covax, Berkley said there was also an ongoing dialogue with vaccine-producing countries about "if they have successful vaccines that come out, how we can make sure they are made available to others in the world."
The aim is for Covax to lay its hands on two billion doses of safe and effective vaccines by the end of 2021.
But the mechanism is facing a range of significant challenges, not least a serious funding shortfall.
The WHO has said some $38 billion is needed for its overall ACT-Accelerator programme, which includes Covax, but also global collaboration towards developing and ensuring equitable access to tests and treatments for Covid-19, and strengthening health systems. But so far it has received just $3.0 billion of that.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the fact that so many countries -- representing nearly two-thirds of the global population -- had agreed to participate in the mechanism.
"Covid-19 is an unprecedented global crisis that demands an unprecedented global response," he said, warning countries against scrambling to acquire vaccine stocks for their populations alone.
"Vaccine nationalism will only perpetuate the disease and prolong the global recovery," he said. "This is not charity," he told journalists. "It's in every country's best interest. We sink or we swim together."

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Report highlights devastating social impacts of Covid-19 in low and middle-income countries
by Brigitte Rohwerder
Institute for Development Studies (UK)
Sep. 2020
The Covid-19 pandemic and responses to it have triggered a global crisis that extends beyond health impacts to all aspects of life. The pandemic poses a threat to sustainable development and implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The impacts of the crisis are harshest for those groups who were already marginalised and excluded and pre-existing inequalities are being exacerbated and deepened.
A new report Social impacts and responses related to Covid-19 in low- and middle-income countries, prepared for the Social Development Cadre of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), draws on the available literature, research and evidence on the emerging social impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic in low- and middle-income countries and considerations around preparedness, response/mitigation, resilience and recovery measures taken or proposed in response.
Key messages from the report include:
Millions more people will fall into extreme poverty
The poor and the near poor have little ability to withstand the economic shock of Covid-19. Many of those who escaped extreme poverty in recent years are still vulnerable to falling back into it.
Poor people and people living very close to the poverty line in urban and rural areas are disproportionally affected by economic consequences of the pandemic as the jobs they work in/their livelihoods are more likely to be lost and they have little recourse to social protection.
Estimates suggest that between 71 million and 395 million more people will fall into extreme poverty, most of whom are in Sub-Saharan Africa. The number of people facing acute food insecurity could double to more than 260 million in 2020.
Economic shock of Covid-19 compounded by widespread lack of access to social protection
Lack of access to social protection contributes to people’s vulnerabilities to the shocks posed by Covid-19. Around 55% of the world’s population have no or inadequate social protection, especially in Africa, where 80% aren’t covered.
Covid-19 has exposed serious gaps in social protection systems, especially in relation to access for informal sector workers, part-time workers, temporary workers, and self-employed workers.
The social protection response to Covid-19 has been uneven, with Africa having the lowest levels of coverage at 2% for cash and 5% for cash and in-kind measures combined.
Marginalised groups most affected and existing inequalities deepened
Existing inequalities have been exposed and worsened, with those already marginalised and vulnerable the most affected – including people with disabilities, older people, children from poor families and/or marginalised and excluded groups, young people, informal workers, migrants, forcibly displaced persons, racial and ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, and LGBTQI+ people.
They are more likely lose their livelihoods as they work in sectors most affected by Covid-19 and have limited or no access to social protection, face increased barriers to accessing health care and education, as well as increased stigmatisation, discrimination and human rights abuses against them.
Covid-19 impacts have the potential to reverse decades of gender equality progress
Women and girls are amongst those most affected by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and it has the potential to reverse decades of progress in their development and rights. They are more likely to work in sectors most affected, face an increased care burden, and have less access to online learning and are more likely to drop out of school.
They are experiencing big increases in gender-based violence (including increased cases of female genital mutilation and child marriage) and reduced access to sexual and reproductive health services, leading to millions more unintended pregnancies.
Closing civic space, human rights violations, and stigmatisation
The space in which marginalised and excluded groups can make their voices heard and hold their government’s accountable is being closed and some emergency laws and responses to the pandemic have violated their human rights and caused stigmatisation, and in some cases deliberate marginalisation of certain groups.
Absence of inclusive data and response
Lack of disaggregated data and meaningful participation, representation, and inclusion of affected populations in Covid-19 response decision-making is contributing to the further exclusion and marginalisation of the groups most affected.
Ensuring an inclusive response - Responses to the pandemic should:
Analyse who is marginalised and at risk of the different impacts and make protection of the lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable a priority;
Collect, analyse and monitor disaggregated data;
Ensure responses are human-rights based and inclusive of those most affected, including their representation in the decision-making, governance and monitoring of the response;
Combat stigmatisation and marginalisation in the response;
Expand social protection programmes and include previously excluded groups, such as informal workers;
Maintain essential food and health services, including sexual and reproductive health services, and provide support to cover financial obligations for things like basic utilities and rent;
Promote flexible work arrangements, the provision of care, and the sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, to reduce women’s unpaid care burden.
In the long-term, universal social protection and protection of health, economic, and social rights are the best defence against global pandemics and their fallout.

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