Rich nations have bought more than half the future supply of COVID-19 vaccines from leading contenders

Emergencies, General, Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 17 Sep 2020

Wealthy nations representing just 13 percent of the world’s population – including Australia – have already cornered more than half the promised doses of leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates, Oxfam warned today as health and finance ministers of G20 countries meet to discuss the global pandemic.

Oxfam analysed the deals that pharmaceutical corporations and vaccine producers have already struck with nations around the world for the five leading vaccine candidates currently in phase 3 clinical trials, based on data collected by Airfinity. The analysis reveals that 51 per cent of promised doses from the five leading candidates have been secured by wealthy nations.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Lyn Morgain said the calculations exposed a broken system that protected the monopolies and profits of pharmaceutical corporations and favoured wealthy nations, while artificially restricting production – leaving most of the world’s population waiting longer than necessary for a vaccine.

Oxfam and other organisations across the world are calling for a People’s Vaccine – available to everyone, free of charge and distributed fairly based on need. This will only be possible if pharmaceutical corporations allow vaccines to be produced as widely as possible by freely sharing their knowledge free of patents, instead of protecting their monopolies and selling to the highest bidder.

“Governments will prolong this crisis in all of its human tragedy and economic damage if they allow pharmaceutical companies to protect their monopolies and profits,” Ms Morgain said.

“No single corporation will ever be able to meet the world’s need for a COVID-19 vaccine. 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.”

Ms Morgain welcomed the Prime Minister’s call for a safe vaccine that is available and affordable to all and the commitment to distribute a vaccine to the Pacific and some South-East Asia countries should Australia develop a successful supply.

But she said details of the commitments remained unclear and fell far short of what was needed from the Government to ensure all people – especially vulnerable communities across the world – could recover from the global pandemic.

“We’re calling on the Government to back these commitments up by working with other nations to secure agreement for a ‘People’s Vaccine,” Ms Morgain said. “Vaccines, tests and treatments should be distributed according to need, not auctioned off to the highest bidder. We need safe, patent-free vaccines, treatments and tests that can be mass produced worldwide, and a clear plan for how they will be distributed.

“Politicians everywhere, including the Australian Government, must step up and provide a cast-iron guarantee that they will put public health before the profits of the pharmaceutical industry.”

“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. The economic case for requiring pharmaceutical companies to share their vaccine knowledge free of patents so that production can be scaled up as fast as possible could not be clearer.”

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