November 11, 2020 – The vast majority of US pharma giant Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine has already been bought by the richest governments in the world, Global Justice Now warns today. Over 1 billion doses have already been sold to rich governments, 82% of the 1.35 billion doses Pfizer says it has the capacity to produce by the end of next year.
Big purchases include the EU with 200 million doses and an option for a further 100 million, the UK with 40 million and the USA with 100 million, and an option to buy another 500 million. Yet the countries that have secured advanced supplies of the Pfizer vaccine represent just 14% of the global population, campaigners warn.
Pfizer is likely to offer some doses to developing countries in the coming weeks through the global COVAX Facility, but these are likely to represent a small fraction of the vaccines produced. While rich countries, including the UK, have joined international efforts to ensure fair distribution, they have undermined these schemes by mass purchases of the vaccine doses outside of the scheme.
Campaigners claim the situation is exacerbated by the failure of these same rich governments to heed calls to suspend global patent rules and encourage countries everywhere to manufacture generic versions of Covid-19 treatments and vaccines.
Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said:
“On the one hand, the British government is helping limit supply of these drugs by insisting on global patent rules that prevent countries producing their own generic vaccines. On the other, it is buying up as much of that limited supply as it can, so there are no vaccines left for developing countries. You couldn’t get a clearer example of how unequal the pharmaceutical system is – some make billions of pounds, while many others die because they cannot afford treatments or there are no more left for them to buy. It’s got to change.
“Pfizer claims not to have had any state support, but the advance purchase of a billion doses of an unproven drug, not to mention the tax breaks and direct public funding of Pfizer’s partner suggests their claim is misleading at best. Unless we break the stranglehold of these massive corporations over our medicines, the injustice will continue. It is imperative that we end the vaccine nationalism and that sufficient supply is made available to all, on a fair basis, as a matter of urgency. That can be helped by supporting governments like South Africa and India who are trying to suspend intellectual property rules at the WTO during this global emergency.”
1. For full calculations see https://drive.google.com/file/d/1zVdisEPoyFIYiW8TcpLifkK0a13z2xQr/view?usp=sharing.
Some data based on Oxfam America’s report, A Shot at Recovery.
2. The governments of India and South Africa have proposed that the WTO suspends global rules on intellectual property for Covid-19 related health products until widespread vaccination is in place globally, and the majority of the world’s population has developed immunity. See India, South Africa ask WTO to waive off patents, intellectual property protection for faster COVID-19 care access, Business Today, 9 October 2020.
We are a democratic social justice organisation working as part of a global movement to challenge the powerful and create a more just and equal world. We mobilise people in the UK for change, and act in solidarity with those fighting injustice, particularly in the global south. www.globaljustice.org.uk