DAVID LEGGE & SUN KIM
| John Menadue’s Pearls & Irritations
As Papua New Guinea faces a worrying spike in Covid-19 cases as well as an increasing spread through its provinces, Australia has failed to organise the vaccine it promised and, along with other big Western countries, has now refused to make it possible to produce more vaccine. These are extracts from a longer article, linked to here
MELBOURNE - Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union are refusing to waive intellectual property rights to Covid-19 vaccines so developing countries can produce the vaccine locally.
This refusal, in the face of vaccine hoarding by rich countries, is likely to cause millions more deaths because of slower access to a vaccine.
It is also extremely short sighted because long delays in global vaccination will enable more powerful variants to emerge.
Vaccine nationalism is continuing unabated in Australia and other rich countries.
Politicians play to lockdown-fatigued publics, boast of procurement deals and promise herd immunity.
Meanwhile many low- and middle-income countries face long delays in accessing vaccines, even for frontline workers and vulnerable groups.
Millions of lives could be saved, and long delays in accessing vaccines eased, if the World Trade Organisation waived certain provisions of its intellectual property agreement that deals with copyright, industrial designs, patents and so on in regard to Covid-19.
Such a waiver would enable lower income countries to access the vital technologies to scale up local production of the Covid-19 vaccines.
While more than 100 governments support granting the waiver, Australia, the US, the UK and the European Union continue to oppose it.
Last October, India and South Africa proposed that the WTO agree to waive sections of the TRIPS Agreement that relate to Covid-19 and for the waiver to remain in place until widespread vaccination had occurred globally, and most of the population had developed immunity…..
If low- and middle-income countries have to wait an extra year or two before achieving herd immunity because the West is commandeering the vaccines, there will be about 40-50 million more cases of infections and perhaps 2 to 3 million additional deaths.
Many of the deaths will be of health workers…..
Meanwhile, Covax, the global initiative aimed at equitable access to Covid vaccines, remains underfunded, excludes upper middle-income countries from any subsidy, and only aims to facilitate the vaccination of just 20% of the population of participating countries.
The recent announcement that 90 million doses will be delivered to African countries through Covax by mid 2021 will only cover 3% of those countries’ populations.
While Covax aims to deliver a further 600 million doses by the end of 2021, enough to immunise 20% of the population, this is optimistic in terms of procurement and delivery is nowhere near close to achieving herd immunity…..
Sun Kim, MS PhD, a Director of the Health Policy Research Centre of the People’s Health Institute in South Korea and Coordinator of the People’s Health Movement for South East Asia and the Pacific
David Legge is a scholar emeritus in the School of Public Health and Human Biosciences at La Trobe University in Melbourne and a founding member of the People’s Health Movement