Wealthy countries already hoarding breakthrough vaccines
Responding to the announcement by Pfizer-BioNTech that the COVID-19 vaccine it is developing has been found to be effective in 90 percent of people, Tamaryn Nelson, Amnesty International’s Researcher on the Right to Health, said:
“It is great news that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is proving effective against COVID-19. However, it’s worrying that Pfizer-BioNTech has already struck deals with rich countries for more than a billion doses of its vaccine, leaving less than a quarter of its projected supply for the rest of the world. These kinds of bilateral deals risk undermining the potential benefits of scientific breakthroughs; Big Pharma profits must not be prioritized over the health of billions.
‘Pfizer-BioNTech must urgently clarify how it will maximize vaccine access in low- and middle-income countries to save lives. It should also share its vaccine technology with other manufacturers via the WHO’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, so that the billions of vaccines we need can be produced as quickly and cheaply as possible. The pandemic will not be over until it is over for everyone.’
Pfizer-BioNTech has already agreed deals for more than 1 billion potential doses of its vaccine, including an initial 100m doses to the US, 30m to the UK, 120m to Japan, 20m to Canada, 1.5m to New Zealand, and 200m to the EU. It has also agreed rights to a further 500m doses with the US, and 100m with the EU.
Given the company’s projection that it could make 50m doses in 2020 and 1.3 billion in 2021, this leaves only a small fraction of potential doses for other countries. Each person receiving the vaccine needs two doses to be protected against COVID-19.
The World Health Organization has set up the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), a scheme for pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily share technology, data and property rights related to COVID-19 vaccines. So far no company has signed up and Pfizer’s CEO described it as ‘nonsense’ when it launched in May.