Numerous international organisations have alleged vaccine hoarding by high-income nations, to the detriment of lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
The People’s Vaccine Alliance – a coalition of organisations including Amnesty International, Free the Vaccine, the Yunus Centre, Frontline AIDS, Oxfam, SumofUs and UNAIDS – said wealthier nations possess enough vaccines to immunise their populations almost three times over. Meanwhile, in 67 less-economically developed countries, just one in ten people can expect a vaccine by the end of 2021.
The pandemic saw an unprecedented level of research and development to find a vaccine against severe acute respiratory coronavirus syndrome 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the novel coronavirus which causes COVID-19. Significant progress has been made. In India, optimistic results for two vaccine candidates leading to requests for emergency use authorisation by Pfizer and the Serum Institute of India.
“We’re expecting that early next year, we should have [a] vaccine in the country from maybe more than one source,” claimed Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan in October. “Our expert groups are already formulating and devising strategies to plan on how to roll out the distribution of the vaccines in the country, who do we give the vaccine first and then of course we are strengthening the cold chain facilities.”
However, vaccine hoarding portends to be a major impediment in global immunisation efforts. “The hoarding of vaccines actively undermines global efforts to ensure that everyone, everywhere can be protected from COVID-19,” said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s head of economic and social justice. “By buying up the vast majority of the world’s vaccine supply, rich countries are in breach of their human rights obligations.” Countries home to fourteen percent of the global population are believed to possess more than half of the global supply of vaccines.
“No one should be blocked from getting a life-saving vaccine because of the country they live in or the amount of money in their pocket,” concurred Anna Marriott, health policy manager at Oxfam. “But unless something changes dramatically, billions of people around the world will not receive a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 for years to come.” The People’s Vaccine Alliance has exhorted pharmaceutical companies to share their technology and intellectual property with the World Health Organization (WHO); to ensure vaccines are made available at affordable prices; and prevent monopolisation.