A handful of wealthy nations have bought up more than half of the potential doses of the most promising Covid-19 vaccines, according to an Oxfam count.
Rich countries, including the UK, United States, Japan and Israel – representing around 13 per cent of the world’s population – have bought 51 per cent of the future supply, or around 2.7 billion doses.
Earlier this week, a report found that this exact scenario could lead to almost twice as many people dying of Covid-19, according to modelling from Northeastern University.
The warning comes as the G20’s health and finance ministers meet on Thursday to discuss the pandemic amid rising concerns over so-called “vaccine nationalism”.
Despite the World Health Organization and other groups repeatedly stressing that no-one will be safe from Covid-19 until everyone is, and a number of global initiatives intended to ensure equitable access to any vaccine developed, countries have scrambled to put themselves at the front of the queue.
For example, the UK government has secured the equivalent of five doses per person. By contrast, according to Oxfam, Bangladesh has just one dose for every nine people.
Anna Marriott, health policy advisor at Oxfam, said: “While countries like the UK are understandably concerned about securing enough doses, until they challenge monopolies these deals will leave many poorer nations out in the cold…
“We need a People’s Vaccine, not a profit vaccine.”
Oxfam is part of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a coalition calling for a jab that is based on shared knowledge and is freely available everywhere.
Using data from Airfinity, it established the spread of vaccine deals based on information from the manufacturers of five of the leading candidates currently in the final stage of clinical trials. Another four vaccines are at a similar stage but the manufacturers have not made their deals public.
The charity calculated that the developers have the combined production capacity to make 5.94 billion doses of vaccine, or enough for 2.97 billion people, as most are likely to require two doses to provide sufficient protection against Covid-19 – if, of course, they work.
Supply deals have been agreed for 5.3bn doses, Oxfam found, of which 2.7bn have been bought by developed countries. Almost 2.6bn doses have been earmarked for developing countries including India, Brazil and Indonesia.
But the picture varies. For example, Moderna has sold all of its potential doses to richer countries, at up to $35 a dose, while AstraZeneca has pledged two-thirds of its doses to developing countries, Oxfam says.
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAids, said that countries and corporations must learn the lessons of how Aids drugs have been distributed.
“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,” she said.
“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 maximising supply. Anything short of that will lead to more deaths and economic chaos, forcing millions into destitution.”
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