Rich hoarding COVID-19 vaccines: alliance

Low-incoming nations such as Ethiopia risk being left behind in COVID vaccinations, campaigners say.
Low-incoming nations such as Ethiopia risk being left behind in COVID vaccinations, campaigners say.

Nine out of 10 people in dozens of poor nations could miss out on getting vaccinated against COVID-19 next year because rich countries have hoarded far more doses than they need, campaigners say.

Rich nations home to 14 per cent of the global population had bought 53 per cent of the total stock of the most-promising vaccines as of last month, says the People's Vaccine Alliance, a coalition including Oxfam, Amnesty International and Global Justice Now.

They say pharmaceutical companies working on COVID-19 vaccines should openly share their technology and intellectual property through the World Health Organisation (WHO) so more doses can be manufactured.

"This shouldn't be a battle between countries to secure enough doses," Mohga Kamal-Yanni, an adviser for People's Vaccine Alliance, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"During these unprecedented times of a global pandemic, people's lives and livelihoods should be put before pharmaceutical company profit."

While high-risk groups in Britain received on Tuesday the first shot of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, most people in 67 low- and lower middle-income countries including Bhutan, Ethiopia and Haiti, risk being left behind, the alliance says.

Among the three COVID-19 vaccines for which efficacy results have been announced, almost all the available doses of two of them - Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech - have been acquired by rich countries, the alliance report says.

While AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford have pledged to provide 64 per cent of their doses to people in developing nations, that would only reach 18 per cent of the world's population by next year "at most", it says.

The campaigners used data from science information and analytics company Airfinity to analyse the deals done between countries and eight leading vaccine candidates, including China's Sinovac and Russia's Sputnik V.

The EU, United States, Britain, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, Australia, Hong Kong, Macau, New Zealand, Israel and Kuwait acquired 53 per cent of these potential doses, with Canada buying enough to vaccinate its population five times over, Oxfam said.

Australian Associated Press