The Oxfam NGO is warning that the world’s poorest nations – two thirds of them on the African continent – don’t have equal access to the COVID vaccines, even as wealthier nations are snapping up doses for their own people.
“Nearly 70 poor countries will only be able to vaccinate one in ten people against COVID-19 next year unless urgent action is taken by governments and the pharmaceutical industry to make sure enough doses are produced,” said Oxfam after an analysis released Wednesday.
Oxfam says 30 low-income countries and 37 lower-middle income countries will only have access to vaccines through the COVAX alliance supported by the World Health Organization. The COVAX goal is to ensure all nations can vaccinate at least 20 percent of their populations, and that globally there will be 2 billion doses distributed equitably by the end of 2021.
But other countries, including Canada, have secured more than enough vaccine for their people.
“By buying up the vast majority of the world’s vaccine supply, rich countries are in breach of their human rights obligations,” said Steve Cockburn of Amnesty International. “Instead, by working with others to share knowledge and scale up supply, they could help bring an end to the global COVID-19 crisis.”
There are 44 African nations among the 67 “left behind” countries, including countries as diverse as Burundi, Comoros, Mauritania, Togo and Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, Oxfam says the data shows that wealthy nations with just 14 percent of the global population have bought up 53 percent of the most promising vaccines to date.
Oxfam is part of an NGO alliance calling for a People’s Vaccine equitable access movement, an effort that’s supported by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and former Liberian leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The vaccines developed by AstraZeneca/Oxford, Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech have received more than US$5 billion in public funding, which the alliance said requires them to act in the global public interest.
South Africa and India asked the World Trade Organization Council earlier this week to waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines until everyone is protected.