The Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), António Guterres, tweeted on January 3rd: “Vaccine nationalism is not only unfair, it defeats itself. No country will be safe … until all countries are safe. «
Guterres’ words remind rich nations of their responsibility in creating » global vaccine apartheid « – the unequal distribution of COVID-19 vaccines on an economic level.
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Wealthy nations like the United States, Britain, Japan and the European Union spent billions of dollars doing business with vaccine developers like Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca before their effectiveness was proven. Wealthy nations, representing only 14% of the world’s population, have bought 53% of all the most promising vaccines to date.
Australia, Canada and Japan have less than 1% of the world’s coronavirus cases. Still, they pre-ordered more vaccine doses than all of Latin America and the Caribbean – a region with more than 17% of the world’s coronavirus cases.
Canada has signed contracts to secure up to 414 million doses of various vaccines – up to five times more, than the population needs. The US and Germany have commissioned enough doses of various COVID-19 vaccines to vaccinate their populations multiple times.
To date, more than 12 million doses of vaccine have been distributed in 33 countries around the world, but none of these countries are in Africa.
South Africa, the hardest hit country on the African continent, was unable to obtain a vaccine from Moderna. The country’s government said it couldn’t convince the company to file its vaccine with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), the agency that approves vaccines.
While Moderna has refused to sell vaccines to South Africa, it has agreed to sell 40 million doses of its vaccine to Canada, 100 million doses to the US and 160 million doses to the European Union.
One such case of monopoly by rich countries was the case of the Pfizer COVID- 19 vaccine repeated. Within days of its announcement, Pfizer was selling more than 80% of the vaccine doses it can produce by the end of the year to a handful of countries in the global north.
Nearly 70 poor countries will only be able to get one of this year due to apartheid Vaccinate ten people against COVID-19.
Most people in poor countries will wait for vaccinations until 2024 if high-income countries continue to practice monopoly practices. In a report from Northeastern University, researchers said this monopoly of vaccines by wealthy nations could cause nearly twice as many deaths as even distribution.
The COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX) – run by the World Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance – was founded to prevent uneven distribution of vaccines. The COVAX Facility aims to accelerate the development of COVID-19 vaccines, secure doses for all countries, and distribute those doses fairly, starting with the highest risk groups.
COVAX, that through donations Funded from high-income countries (HIC) is not enough to ensure timely and fair access to COVID-19 products. COVAX aims to source 2 billion vaccine doses and split them equally between HICs and low and middle income countries (LIMCs).
However, the COVAX facility has only reserved 1 billion vaccine doses to date. For comparison: 35 countries have reserved 6 billion doses for themselves through bilateral agreements with pharmaceutical companies.
LICs with a total population of 1.7 billion people have not yet signed a single bilateral vaccination agreement.
COVAX has also been criticized for Negotiating prices where profit takes precedence over viewing vaccines as a global public good, the lack of transparency in contracts with vaccine manufacturers, limiting civil society participation and neglecting the potential impact of intellectual property rights on vaccinations.In October, South Africa and India called on the World Trade Organization (WTO) to suspend intellectual property rights (IP) related to COVID-19 to ensure that not only the richest countries have access to vaccines, medicines and more can afford new technologies to fight the pandemic rlich.
The pharmaceutical industry and many HICs – the US, UK, EU, Canada, Switzerland, Norway, Australia, Brazil and Japan – strongly opposed this move.
The proposed exemption would include patents, copyrights , Covering trade secrets and industrial samples – a measure that would allow poor countries to legally acquire and use proprietary technologies more easily than is possible under the current health emergency exemptions under the trade-related aspects of the WTO Agreement on Rights to intellectual property (TRIPS).
The WTO proposal entitled « Abandonment of certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement on the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19 » reads: « There are several reports on intellectual property rights, that hinder or potentially hinder the timely delivery of affordable medical products to patients … In addition to patents, a Other intellectual property rights are also an obstacle, with limited opportunities to overcome these obstacles. “
Annoyed by a global southern plan that threatened to destabilize the imperialist architectures, the world’s core capitalist countries organized the criminal act of blocking a global, patent-free vaccine.
Last November 20th, India went on the informal Meeting of the TRIPS Council clearly highlighted the predators of these countries: “On the one hand, these countries buy up as much of the limited supply as possible and leave no vaccines for development and the least they leave. Industrialized countries. On the flip side, and very strangely enough, these are the same countries that argue against the need for a waiver that can help improve global manufacturing and supply for not only equitable but also timely and affordable access to such vaccines for to reach all countries. «
As rich countries struggle to hoard vaccines, the Global South must put in place institutional arrangements that will enable it to bring life-saving medical technology to its people at the lowest cost, without fear of harm Intellectual Property Rights to be sued.
Nobody should be prevented from receiving a life-saving vaccine just because they live in a country subject to the forces of imperialism. All countries of the global south must come together to challenge the exploitative dominance of the global north and support a popular vaccine agenda.
[Yanis Iqbal is a student and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India. He can be contacted at [email protected]]
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