The People’s Vaccine Alliance on Monday condemned the “endless tide of inadequate gestures and broken promises” that has inundated the Global South over the past year as the coalition released
a report showing rich countries and pharmaceutical companies have failed to deliver promised vaccine doses to developing nations.
While standing in the way of the global effort to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines, said the report—titled “A Dose of Reality”
—wealthy countries have taken badly-needed doses from COVAX, the international facility designed to send vaccines to developing countries, and applauded pharmaceutical companies for ostensibly sending doses to poor nations.
“In the race against Covid-19, none of us cross the finish line until we all do.”
Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry has delivered only 12% of the vaccine doses it allocated to COVAX—demonstrating, said members of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, that the charity of western drug companies is not the way out of the global pandemic.
“It is painfully clear that the developing world cannot rely on the largesse and charity of rich nations and pharmaceutical companies, and hundreds of thousands of people are dying from Covid-19 as a result,” said
Winnie Byanyima, executive director of UNAIDS, a member of the alliance. “This is beyond appalling.”
Wealthy countries have promised 1.8 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines to the Global South but have delivered just 261 million doses, or 14%, the report said.
Meanwhile, countries including
the United Kingdom, Norway, and Germany are continuing to block “the real solutions to vaccine inequality,” said Oxfam International—namely, a waiver of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement which has blocked developing countries from producing their own generic versions of the vaccines developed by companies including Pfizer and Moderna.
Some of the countries blocking the waiver—which South Africa and India first demanded more than a year ago—have taken doses from COVAX, doubling down on impeding the governments of poor countries from vaccinating their populations. The U.K., which has delivered fewer than 10% of the 100 million doses it promised to the Global South, has also taken half a million doses from COVAX, despite “having already secured more than enough doses for British people from direct deals with the pharmaceutical companies,” said Oxfam.
Germany has only delivered 12% of the 100 millon doses it pledged, and while the U.S. has sent nearly 177 million doses to developing countries, that accounts for just 16% of what it promised.
“The failure of rich country donations and the failure of COVAX have the same root cause―we have given over control of vaccine supply to a small number of pharmaceutical companies, who are prioritizing their own profits,” said
Robbie Silverman, senior manager of private sector advocacy for Oxfam. “These companies can’t produce enough to vaccinate the world, they are artificially constraining the supply, and they will always put their rich customers at the front of the line.”
“The only way to end the pandemic is to share the technology and know-how with other qualified manufacturers so that everyone, everywhere can have access to these lifesaving vaccines,” said Silverman.
The report was released as only 1.3% of people in low income countries are vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to Oxfam.
Oxfam credited U.S. President Joe Biden for his “rightly ambitious” call at the U.N. General Assembly last month for 70% of people in every country to be vaccinated by September 2022, but noted that the target could be achieved more quickly with concerted effort by wealthy countries—and that there is currently no plan to achieve the goal.
“The approach remains focused on inadequate charity and non-binding donation pledges instead of legally binding sharing, collaboration, and cooperation,” reads the People’s Vaccine Alliance report. “This approach will not work.”
As world leaders prepare to meet at the G20 Summit in Rome next week, the report calls on wealthy countries “to stop breaking their promises to vaccinate the world” by:
- Suspending intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines, tests, treatments, and other medical tools by agreeing to the proposed waiver of the TRIPS Agreement at the World Trade Organization;
- Using every available legal and policy tool to require pharmaceutical companies to share Covid-19 data, know-how, and technology with the WHO’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool and South Africa mRNA Technology Transfer Hub;
- Investing in decentralized manufacturing hubs in developing countries to move from a world of vaccine monopolies and scarcity to one of vaccine sufficiency and fairness, in which developing countries have direct control over production capacity to meet their needs; and
- Immediately redistributing existing vaccines equitably across all nations to achieve the WHO target of vaccinating 40 percent of people in all countries by the end of 2021 and 70 percent of people in all countries by mid-2022.
“In the race against Covid-19, none of us cross the finish line until we all do,” tweeted Byanyima, along with a video produced by the People’s Vaccine Alliance showing wealthy and low-income countries running a race.
“The time has come for all governments,” said the People’s Vaccine Alliance in its report, “starting at the G20 Summit in October 2021, to collectively decide if they want to continue down a road of broken promises, or to find a new way forward that can protect us all and enable the world to exit the pandemic.”