US President Joe Biden’s pledge to send 500 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to developing countries has been welcomed but has also been declared insufficient to meet needs, amid calls for the opening of rights to vaccine production.
On Wednesday, President Biden pledged to make the United States an “arsenal” against the pandemic, promising to send doses of Pfizer vaccine to developing countries and injecting more than $ 1.1 billion into the facility. of Covax and other distribution logistics.
But organizations fighting for vaccine equity say more needs to be done, especially when it comes to the pace of vaccine production.
“While we applaud President Biden for rallying world leaders to commit to vaccinating 70% of the world by the same time next year, we have yet to see an effective plan. to achieve this goal, “said Abby Maxman, President and CEO of Oxfam International. .
“While every additional dose of life-saving vaccine is welcome, the 500 million additional doses that President Biden has just committed are still a drop in the ocean compared to urgent needs around the world,” Mr. Maxman. President Biden convened a virtual summit on Covid-19, on the sidelines of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week. The session, although on climate change, all leaders who addressed it said Covid-19 was the immediate challenge.
“America will become the arsenal of vaccines, as we were the arsenal of democracy during World War II,” he said, referring to the role of the United States in helping to rebuild the United States. countries, especially in Europe, after World War II.
“For every hit we’ve administered in America; we have engaged three times in the rest of the world, ”he told a virtual audience that includes pharmaceutical policy makers, executives and business leaders,” Biden said. But African leaders at the summit led by South African President Cyril called for a waiver of intellectual property rights over vaccine production. South Africa has come out for rights to vaccine production, insisting the world has already missed WHO’s immunization targets.
“The gap is widening between the richer countries which buy and even accumulate vaccines and the developing countries which struggle to gain access to vaccines. As we welcome the donation and sharing of vaccines to developing countries. However, we reiterate our proposal that developing countries should be allowed to manufacture their own vaccines as well as to obtain them directly, ”he said at the summit.
South Africa and India have requested a special allowance under the World Trade Organization on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), a treaty that manages copyrights, trademarks and patents for manufacturers. They proposed that developing countries be given special authorization in emergencies to produce vaccines. The motion was defeated twice.
The African grouse is that while more than 5.7 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered worldwide, seven out of ten doses have been given to people in the ten richest countries in the world, according to figures from the ‘UN.
Of these, only 3 percent of Africans have been vaccinated. The United States, along with other groups in the Group of 7 (G20), had pledged to distribute at least one billion doses by the end of this year. The leaders say it is insufficient.
“We must put equitable access to vaccines at the heart of the reconstruction for better from this Covid-19. We need to provide tangible financial support to developing countries and ensure that a significant part of green manufacturing is located in developing countries, ”President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Wednesday in his recorded address to the General Assembly of United Nations.
The G7’s promise to distribute vaccines has also encountered relentless delays due to hoarding.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has suggested that the big pharmaceutical companies are taking advantage of public funds without ensuring that the public actually receives the vaccines, making their production a lucrative $ 100 billion industry.
“It’s not just disappointing. It’s confusing, ”he said during the virtual meeting. “Global immunization is not philanthropy; it is personal interest. The larger the pool of unvaccinated people, the more the virus will continue to circulate and evolve into new variants, and the greater the economic and social disruption. “
The world had promised to distribute at least 2.3 billion doses through the COVAX facility by December, enough to immunize at least 40% of the world’s 7 billion people, as planned by the World Health Organization.
The United States, like most developed countries, has come under heavy criticism for choosing to give booster shots, thus preventing other countries from accessing jabs even though they had the money to do so. buy them.
Speaking to the General Assembly on Tuesday, Biden said his country had injected more than $ 15 billion into the global response to Covid-19 and would continue to do so in the future.
He said the United States is also working with partners around the world to improve local vaccine manufacturing and that India and South Africa will be crucial next year.