All but forgotten, its failure is no longer newsworthy
Two-thirds of countries are yet to meet the target of vaccinating 70 percent of people in all countries against COVID-19 set a year ago
The death toll from COVID-19 is four times higher in lower-income countries, where less than half (48 percent) of the population have had their full initial round of vaccinations. At the current rate, it will take almost two and a half years for 70 percent of people in the poorest countries to be fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, rich countries are already beginning to roll out booster programmes and in some cases fifth shots, using the new generation vaccines, the majority of which have been ordered by rich nations.
At the same time, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna continue to reap huge profits while refusing to work with the WHO to share their vaccine technology.
Maaza Seyoum, Global South Convenor of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, said: “Everyone everywhere should have access to the tools needed to fight a pandemic, But COVID-19 has been a case of survival of the richest. For most of this pandemic, big pharmaceutical companies left people in developing countries to die without vaccines and treatments while they sold doses to rich governments in the global north.
“Now, big pharma is trying to rewrite history, claiming that the industry will voluntarily ensure global access to medicines in the next pandemic. We know from COVID-19 that this isn’t true. Governments cannot rely on the goodwill of pandemic profiteers to do the right thing. We need to overhaul this system to put human life before private profit.”
Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s Health Policy Manager, said: “This massive failure to meet promises to protect the world from Covid-19 is indefensible. While the end of the pandemic should be in sight, hundreds of millions of people in developing countries are still unprotected from COVID-19. We are calling on President Biden and other world leaders not to turn their backs on them while the virus continues to kill and cause devastation to people’s livelihoods." She continued, “It is time to radically redesign a system that puts pharma profits ahead of people’s lives. Developing countries need access to vaccines, tests, and treatments at the same time as rich countries, not years later after people have died. We are seeing the same deadly inequality for COVID-19 treatments and now for monkeypox vaccines, governments must not allow this to continue.”
Lack of vaccination means the need for COVID-19 tests and treatments is even greater in poorer nations but inequality in access is even starker, yet rich nations are at this moment fiercely resisting any attempt to extend the WTO agreement on vaccines to tests and treatments. Reports from the ACT-Accelerator indicated that almost no doses of any outpatient antivirals are available in low-and middle-income countries. The campaign groups said this persistent gap demonstrates the massive failings in the international response to COVID-19, which continually ignored the need to diversify manufacturing so that developing countries could make their own doses and manage their own supply concurrently with deliveries to rich countries.
A recent report found that a combination of unpredictable vaccine supplies, lack of antiviral treatments, and poor funding for health systems led to lower vaccination rates in developing countries, and that vaccine hesitancy was being used as an excuse to mask the international failures in the COVID-19 response.
The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations (IFPMA) is pressuring governments to take a greater role to fund, support, de-risk, and provide data for research and development. But they want governments to hand companies a monopoly on the resulting drugs and to waive liability for any adverse impacts. In return, the industry claims it will do better to improve “equity” in the next pandemic, proposing the same voluntary measures that failed during COVID-19 in a lobbying paper dubbed the “Berlin Declaration”.