Now pharmaceutical firms including AstraZeneca call on governments to share Covid vaccines with low-income countries to stamp out pandemic and threat of variants

  • Pressure is mounting on global leaders to address the Covid ‘vaccine apartheid’
  • IFPMA today called for ‘immediate action’ to ‘step up responsible dose sharing’
  • Warned it was the only way to end the global pandemic and prevent variants

Wealthy nations must stop hoarding Covid vaccines and share them with poorer countries, a body representing the world’s jab makers said today.   

The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations called for ‘immediate action’ to address the ‘vaccine apartheid’ that has emerged.

It warned a ‘stepping up of responsible dose sharing’ was the only way to end the global pandemic and prevent dangerous new variants from cropping up.

The body – which represents AstraZeneca and Pfizer – said manufacturers were on track to have produce 11billion doses by the end of this month, enough to fully vaccinate the world’s adult population. 

‘Critically, however, Covid vaccines currently are not equally reaching all priority populations worldwide,’ the IFPMA added in a statement.

Countries like the UK and US have been able to roll the vaccines out to younger people and largely squash their crises thanks to having hundreds of millions of vaccine doses on pre-order.

Yet developing nations in Africa, South America — and most recently India — are recording record death tolls due to lagging rollouts. 

Pressure is mounting on global leaders to address what the World Health Ogranization has branded a ‘vaccine apartheid’. 

It comes after a chief scientist behind the Oxford University vaccine, which is being manufactured by AstraZeneca, said it would be ‘morally wrong’ to vaccinate children in wealthy nations ahead of vulnerable people in poorer countries.

Professor Andrew Pollard said it felt ‘completely wrong’ the UK and US were pushing on with plans to jab children who have a ‘near-to-zero’ risk of dying from Covid. 

Britain has ordered more than 500 million doses of the most promising vaccines, enough to vaccinate the population many times over 

In its call to action statement today, the IFPMA added: ‘Manufacturers, governments, and non-governmental organizations must work together to take urgent steps to further address this inequity. 

‘Immediate action must focus on stepping up responsible dose sharing and maximizing production without compromising quality or safety.’

It laid out five steps for an even global vaccine rollout, which included working with foreign Governments and sharing raw materials needed to scale up vaccine production.

Offering the Covid vaccine to children in wealthy countries when high-risk groups in poorer nations remain unvaccinated is ‘morally wrong’, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group has said. 

Professor Andrew Pollard said it felt ‘completely wrong’ that vaccines were being rolled out to children who had a ‘near-to-zero’ risk of severe disease or death from Covid-19 ahead of priority groups from poorer countries.   

The scientist, who helped develop the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 jab, went on to say the ‘inequity’ in the global vaccine rollout was ‘absolutely plain to see at this moment in a very troubling way’.

His comments came as it emerged that the UK had secured enough Pfizer vaccines to inoculate children aged 12 and older if it is clinically approved. 

Prof Pollard told the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus: ‘When you look at the overall aim of a global vaccination programme in a pandemic, it’s to stop people dying.

‘And we know who those people are – that’s the over-50s, it’s those who’ve got health conditions and to some extent also healthcare workers and so those are the priority groups.

‘We are in a situation at the moment where there are many unvaccinated people in the world but not enough doses for everyone yet.

‘But there are many unvaccinated people in the world, whilst people whose risk is extremely low are being vaccinated, including children, who have near-to-zero the risk of severe disease or death.

‘That inequity is absolutely plain to see at this moment in a very troubling way as we see the images from South Asia on our televisions of the awful circumstances now – colleagues that are just facing the most appalling circumstances, they’re not working in a situation where there’s an NHS to support them.

‘And it feels completely wrong to be in a situation morally where we were allowing that to happen, whilst in many countries vaccines are being rolled out to younger and younger populations at very, very low risk.’

Officials were also urged to work with the World Trade Organization (WTO) to eliminate all trade barriers and tariffs so supplies can be moved freely between borders. 

The IFPMA also called on rich countries to continue funding new Covid vaccines after they get their crises under control so that new variants can be targeted in the future. 

US President Joe Biden said in March that 20million doses of American-made vaccines would be sent abroad by June amid widespread calls to address supply inequalities.

That is in addition to 60m doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine that he has agreed to ship abroad. The British vaccine has not yet been approved for Americans yet and cannot be released until regulators give it the OK.  

At a press conference today, a senior official in the Biden administration said she was optimistic the rest of the world would step up and help plug global vaccine coverage gaps.

Gayle Smith, the State Department coordinator for the global Covid response, said: ‘Our experience and I think the product of our discussions with a number of countries and bodies like the EU is that there’s a recognition of the importance of dose sharing and a desire to increase dose sharing.’

But she added: ‘For many countries the timing and volume of that is dependent on their own domestic vaccine coverage… 

‘What I can tell you is that I think there is a broad consensus that dose sharing needs to be part of our collective strategy.’

In February, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to donate most of the UK’s vaccine supply surplus to poorer countries but no specific timescale has been given.

Britain has ordered more than 500 million doses of the most promising vaccines, enough to vaccinate the population many times over.

Global vaccine distribution is expected to be a key talking point at two major meetings over the next month — the Global Health Summit on Friday and the G7 in Cornwall. 

France — the only G7 nation to send vaccine doses abroad — has already donated 500,000 doses to India and Sweden 1 million, with Switzerland considering a similar donation. 

Britain was due to receive 5million doses of AstraZeneca’s jab being manufactured in India but they were blocked after India’s second wave took off.

The UK is not believed to be pursuing the doses, with experts previously telling MailOnline it would be ‘ethically dubious’ to do so. 

The UN children’s agency Unicef — which buys and distributes vaccines for Covax — says its research suggests G7 nations and EU states could donate 153million doses and still meet their domestic commitments.

It comes after Oxford’s Professor Pollard criticised the UK and US for their plans to vaccinate children instead of donating doses to developing countries. 

The scientist, who helped develop the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, went on to say the ‘inequity’ in the global vaccine rollout was ‘absolutely plain to see’.

Professor Pollard told a cross-party group of politicians in the UK: ‘When you look at the overall aim of a global vaccination programme in a pandemic, it’s to stop people dying.

‘And we know who those people are – that’s the over-50s, it’s those who’ve got health conditions and to some extent also healthcare workers and so those are the priority groups.

‘We are in a situation at the moment where there are many unvaccinated people in the world but not enough doses for everyone yet.

‘But there are many unvaccinated people in the world, whilst people whose risk is extremely low are being vaccinated, including children, who have near-to-zero the risk of severe disease or death.

‘That inequity is absolutely plain to see at this moment in a very troubling way as we see the images from South Asia on our televisions of the awful circumstances now – colleagues that are just facing the most appalling circumstances, they’re not working in a situation where there’s an NHS to support them.

‘And it feels completely wrong to be in a situation morally where we were allowing that to happen, whilst in many countries vaccines are being rolled out to younger and younger populations at very, very low risk.’

He added that not having vaccine equity around the world was also a risk to health security, adding: ‘If we have better distribution of vaccines, there is some downward pressure on variants of concern.’

The University of Oxford and AstraZeneca committed previously to providing their Covid vaccine on a not-for-profit basis for the duration of the pandemic across the world, and in perpetuity to low and middle-income countries.

Source: Read Full Article