Rich countries have reserved half of future vaccine doses

WASHINGTON | A group of wealthy countries representing 13% of the world’s population has pre-purchased half of future doses of COVID-19 vaccines, according to a report released Wednesday by the NGO Oxfam.

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The logic of these countries is to source as a precaution from multiple competing manufacturers, in the hope that at least one of their vaccines will prove effective, but the report urgently underlines the difficulty that part of the vaccine will have. the world population to find vaccines in the initial period, while an international pooling device called Covax, supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), is boycotted by Washington and lacks funding.

The United States as of May, then the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan and other countries signed multiple contracts guaranteeing in advance the production and the 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.

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 maker 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.

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