Home Equality & Justice Poorer nations risk missing out on COVID-19 vaccine, rights group warns

Poorer nations risk missing out on COVID-19 vaccine, rights group warns

Amnesty International has accused “rich countries” of taking most of the COVID-19 vaccines to be made by Pfizer-BioNTech and leaving few available for developing nations.

The rights group’s accusation comes after Pfizer-BioNTech announced Nov. 9 that its COVID-19 vaccine is effective in 90 percent of people.

BioNTech is a small German biotechnology company that is the originator of the vaccine. It has partnered with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

In a statement, Amnesty International (AI) said that Pfizer-BioNTech has already agreed deals for more than 1 billion potential doses of its vaccine, including an initial 100 million doses to the US, 30 million to the UK, 120 million to Japan, 20 million to Canada, 1.5 million to New Zealand, and 200 million to the European Union. The statement said that the it has also agreed rights to a further 500 million doses with the US, and 100 million with the European Union.

AI said that given the company’s projection that it could make 50 million 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, AI said.

“[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,” said Tamaryn Nelson, a researcher with AI.

“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,” she said.

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Nelson called on Pfizer-BioNTech to share its vaccine technology with other manufacturers via the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), so that the billions of vaccines can be produced as quickly and cheaply as possible.

The World Health Organization set up 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.

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