A small group of wealthy nations representing 13% of the world population has secured more than half of the most promising future coronavirus vaccines, British charity group Oxfam said on Thursday. The organisation said that this could mean that nearly two-thirds of the world’s population would not have a vaccine until at least 2022.
In a report, Oxfam said it made the estimates after analysing deals made by pharmaceutical companies and vaccine producers with countries for the five leading vaccine candidates that are currently in Phase-3 clinical trials. These are: Gamaleya/Sputnik, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Sinovac.
Oxfam calculated the total doses of these five vaccines to be 5.94 billion [594 crore], which would be enough for 2.94 billion people [294 crore], considering that all the inoculations will certainly or are highly likely to need two doses. It said that of these, the supply deals have already been agreed for 5.303 billion [530 crore] doses.
But more than 2.7 billion (272 crore) doses, or 51%, have been already bought by countries including Australia, Britain, Israel, Japan, Switzerland, the United States, and the European Union, it added. The remaining 2.575 billion [257 crore] doses have been bought by or promised to developing countries including India, Bangladesh, China, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico among others.
The report said even if all five vaccines are approved, their combined production capacity is enough for only about three billion people since each person is likely to need two doses. “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,” the report said. “It is far more likely some of these experiments will fail, leaving the number of people without access even higher.”
The report said that the United Kingdom has managed to secure deals equal to five doses per person of the country’s population. In contrast, Bangladesh has secured only dose per head of its population, it added.
Oxfam said that the top leading vaccine candidate, developed by Moderna, has already received $2.48 billion [over Rs 18,000 crore] in taxpayers’ money. Despite this, the organisation said that Moderna intends to make a profit and has sold its supply at $12 to $16 [between Rs 800 to Rs 1,200] in the United States, and for about $35 [approximately Rs 2,500] in other countries.
The charity group called for a “people’s vaccine”, which would be free and distributed based on the needs of the people.
“No single corporation will ever be able to meet the world’s need for a Covid-19 vaccine,” Chema Vera, interim executive director of Oxfam International, said. “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.”
Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, also called for “sharing knowledge [on the vaccine] and maximising supply”. “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,” Byanyima added.
Nine potential coronavirus vaccines are currently undertaking clinical trials of which, supply deals of five companies have been made public, the report added.
Globally, the coronavirus has infected more than 2.97 crore people and killed 9,39,175 people, according to the Johns Hopkins University. The number of worldwide recoveries has crossed 2.02 crore.