Rich Countries Have Already Bought More Than Half of Future Supply of COVID-19 Vaccines

They represent just 13 percent of the world population, an Oxfam study reveals.
September 17, 2020, 9:49am
covid coronavirus vaccine
Photo courtesy of Polina Tankilevitch / Pexels

In yet another incident that has made the wealth disparity in the pandemic even more evident, international organisation Oxfam has revealed that wealthy nations—representing just 13 percent of the world population—have already cornered over 51 percent of the promised doses of leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

Nine COVID-19 vaccines are currently undergoing Phase 3 clinical trials. Of these, the supply deals have been made public for five corporations: AstraZeneca, Gamaleya/Sputnik, Moderna, Pfizer, and Sinovac. The reported vaccine deals reveal stark inequalities between countries. Where the UK government has secured deals on vaccine candidates equivalent to five doses per head of population, Bangladesh has so far secured only one dose for every nine people. Oxfam has come out with this report after analysing the deals between the vaccine producers and the nations, based on material collected by data and science analytics company, Airfinity.

This warning comes on September 17 ahead of the G20 meet, where the health and finance ministers of the countries will discuss the global pandemic. 51 percent of the future vaccines have been bought by developed countries, including the UK, U.S., Australia, Hong Kong & Macau, Japan, Israel and the European Union. The remaining doses have been bought by or promised to developing countries, including India (which currently has the second highest number of coronavirus cases in the world, if ranked by caseloads on countries), Bangladesh, China, and Brazil (which has the third highest number of coronavirus cases), among others.

According to Oxfam, one of the leading vaccine candidates developed by Moderna, has received $2.48 billion from the American taxpayers’ money. The company, however, still, intends to make a profit from its vaccine.

Moreover, the same companies cannot make enough vaccines for everyone on the planet who’d need it. Moderna, for example, is reported to have been making  efforts to scale up supply but can produce enough for only 475 million people. That’s just 6 percent of the world’s population, most of which are going to the wealthier nations. Even in the extremely unlikely event that all five vaccines pass the clinical trials and are safe to be released in the market, nearly two thirds, or 61 percent 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 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. Thus, this analysis exposes a broken system that the pandemic has made more evident—protecting the pharmaceutical corporations and favouring wealthy nations, while artificially restricting production and leaving most of the world’s population waiting longer than necessary for a vaccine. "Access to a life-saving vaccine shouldn't depend on where you live or how much money you have," said Robert Silverman of Oxfam America.

The People’s Vaccine Alliance, a coalition of organisations and activists, is campaigning for a “people’s vaccine” for COVID-19 that is based on shared knowledge and is freely available to everyone everywhere. “No single corporation will ever be able to meet the world’s need for a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Chema Vera, the Interim Executive Director of Oxfam International in their press release. “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.”

Follow Satviki on Instagram.