Dec. 21, 2020 (GIN) – Shopping for an anti-coronavirus drug?
Too late. A handful of rich countries have ‘cleared the shelves’ – buying up more supply than their populations actually need.
Canada, with a population of 37.6 million, leads the pack, ordering enough vaccine for its population times six. The U.S., with a population of 328 million, has secured 100 million doses from Pfizer, 200 million from Moderna and 810 million doses from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax and Sanofi combined, for a combined total of 1.5 billion.
Other wealthy nations have joined the U.S. in placing large preorders, often with options to expand the deals and acquire even more — undermining many countries’ ability to make timely purchases.
“We are dealing with an incredibly competitive global environment,” said Canada’s minister of procurement, Anita Anand. “It’s very much the long game here.”
To protect the rights of vulnerable groups in 190 economies, COVAX, an international body, was launched by the World Health Organization, the European Commission and France to ensure that people worldwide would get access to COVID-19 vaccines once they are approved.
The aim is to have 2 billion doses available by the end of 2021 to protect high risk and vulnerable people as well as frontline healthcare workers. Some experts predict it will be 2024 before there is enough vaccine.
As stark disparities in vaccine access become more visible, pressure will be mounting on wealthy countries to alter their plans. Lois Chingandu, a member of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, said she lived in fear of contracting Covid-19 if her country, Zimbabwe, could not obtain enough vaccine.
In the late 1990s, Ms. Chingandu worked in HIV prevention and watched thousands of people die from AIDS each day. Medicine was available to stop it – but only to those who could afford it.
Ms. Chingandu and the People’s Vaccine want drug companies to share the intellectual property so that generic forms of the vaccine can be made.
The World Trade Organization is undecided whether to waive intellectual property rules for Covid vaccines. The proposal has won support from some countries but is opposed by many Western countries.
“People are going to die of Covid,” says Ms Chingandu in frustration, “while people in other countries are living a normal life… Eventually when the privileged decide that it’s time to save the poor people, then we will get the vaccine,” she told the BBC.
Dec. 3, 2018 (GIN) – A massive turnout of die-hard fans of superstars Beyonce and her husband Jay-Z filled every available square inch of the Johannesburg FNB stadium for the closing night of the Global Citizen Festival organized to honor the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela and raise $1 billion to address poverty, food security, global health and other social issues. Beyonce and Jay-Z were the headline act for the standing room only closing affair that featured a 90 minute performance with the popular superstars that included a rendition of her 2008 single “Halo” accompanied by a South African choir. Those watching the show online, which also included appearances by Oprah Winfrey, Usher, Trevor Noah and Naomi Campbell, were only allowed to see 25 minutes of the two hour-plus set which caused bitter complaints across social media. Among the highlights of the free-ticketed event was a promise by billionaire Patrice Motsepe to give $250 million to support farming and agriculture in South Africa. Other major partners include Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Nedbank, Vodacom, Big Concerts, House of Mandela, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Goalkeepers, Eldridge Industries, and Associate Partner, HP. “Global Citizens have generated commitments and policy announcements from leaders valued at over $37.9 billion that are set to affect the lives of more than 2.25 billion people. This year alone Global Citizens have secured 29 commitments totaling over $2.9 billion that are set to affect the lives of more than 501 million people by 2030,” organizers reported. As the exhausted fans left the stadium, however, joy turned to horror as the perimeter of the area was at a standstill with major traffic congestion, lack of public transportation and an absence of security, allowing robberies, violence and complete disorder to flourish. Much of this was documented on social media. Concert-goer and witness Catherine Constantinides, director of the Miss Earth SA program, said “it was more than mugging and taking phones”. “You prayed with your life not to be stabbed, punched or brutally attacked, all of which I witnessed,” she wrote on her verified Twitter account. The charity event also left a worrying question to be answered. Who would administer the giant sums promised – the government or the donors? An answer to that question should be forthcoming.