COVID-19 vaccines: Recommendations for equitable access

We’re in a time of unprecedented mobilisation to tackle COVID-19. Over the last year, governments and philanthropies have contributed billions of dollars to the research and development of COVID-19 vaccines. Heads of state have spoken about making the vaccines “global public goods”, and the COVAX Facility was launched to deliver COVID-19 vaccines equitably across the world.

But, one year on, we face huge vaccine inequity around the world, with just 0.2% of all vaccines going to low-income countries.

Here we share recommendations to help ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are accessible for everyone who needs them.

We need global solidarity to tackle this pandemic, and we can’t have two systems of vaccine distribution: one for countries that can afford them, and another for those that can’t.

Millions of people in low- and middle-income countries have been left behind. While several countries have begun vaccinating low-risk groups, healthcare workers in many of the places where MSF works have been largely left unprotected. Countries with enough doses should start transferring vaccines to COVAX as soon as possible.

Governments must require pharmaceutical corporations to commit to selling COVID-19 vaccines at cost. Pharma corporations shouldn’t profiteer off this global pandemic, at the expense of millions of people who are being left behind as the vaccines are too expensive and unavailable.

For example, AstraZeneca said it would sell its vaccine at cost, but countries like South Africa and Uganda are paying more for it than the EU.

Governments that contribute public funds to develop COVID-19 vaccines must require pharma corporations to open their books and show the public all research & development and production costs. The public has paid for the development of COVID-19 vaccines through their taxes, and therefore deserve transparency on how the public money is used.

Public money shouldn’t be handed over to pharma without conditions attached. Take, for example, the US government’s public funding to six pharma corporations to develop and produce COVID-19 vaccines. Moderna, which received almost US$2.5 billion in taxpayer funds and has produced a successful vaccine, has still not supplied this vaccine to the COVAX Facility.

At the start of the pandemic, several heads of state referred to COVID-19 vaccines as ‘global public goods’, or the ‘people’s vaccine’. But so far, governments and companies have not delivered on this claim. Pharma corporations have retained intellectual property rights and largely hoarded the technology to make these vaccines, which has led to enormous vaccine inequity.

Pharma alone shouldn’t decide who gets access to COVID-19 vaccines.

To stay in touch with our work to ensure fair access for all to medicines, vaccines and tests, sign up to our newsletter: Access Info https://msfaccess.org/newsletter

This blog is a place to reflect on our experiences working for access to medicines. For the official MSF Access Campaign website please visit msfaccess.org.

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