Inequalities accentuated by the epidemic. According to a report published by the NGO Oxfam, rich countries have pre-ordered half of future doses of the vaccine against Covid-19, while they represent only 13% of the world population.
Consequence: part of the world population will face many difficulties in finding vaccines, while an international pooling device called Covax, supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), is boycotted by Washington and lacks funding.
In the USA, doses available in October
The logic of these rich countries is to source as a precaution from multiple competing manufacturers, in the hope that at least one of their vaccines will prove effective. The United States as early as May, then the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan and other countries signed multiple contracts guaranteeing in advance the production and delivery of doses if the clinical trials in progress were conclusive. The Americans will even have doses delivered as early as October, in order to be ready to distribute them within 24 hours of a possible health authorization.
The AstraZeneca group, a partner of the University of Oxford, signed the most of these contracts publicly, but Sanofi, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, the American biotech Moderna, the Chinese laboratory Sinovac and the Russian institute Gamaleïa have also pre-sold hundreds of millions of doses worldwide, sometimes in the form of partnerships with local manufacturers.
Experts are working on distribution
According to Oxfam, contracts have already been signed with five of these manufacturers in phase 3 of clinical trials for 5.3 billion doses, of which 51% for developed countries including those above as well as Australia, Hong Kong , Switzerland and Israel (figures do not include contracts for vaccines not yet in phase 3). The rest has been pledged to developing countries including India (where giant manufacturer Serum Institute of India is located), Bangladesh, China, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico, according to Oxfam. Donald Trump’s United States (330 million people) has reserved a total of 800 million doses from six manufacturers, and the European Union (450 million people) has purchased at least 1.5 billion doses , according to an AFP count.
“Vital access to vaccines should not depend on where you live or how much money you have,” said Robert Silverman of Oxfam. Experts in public health have proposed several modes of global distribution: WHO would like to give each country enough to vaccinate 20% of its population; a group of ethicists suggested prioritizing countries where the virus kills the most.
But the United States has announced that it intends to offer the vaccine first to all of its inhabitants, not just the vulnerable and the elderly. This type of “vaccine nationalism” was denounced by multiple public health officials, and by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen in a speech Wednesday morning to the European Parliament.