The World Health Organization (WHO) chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, today called on makers of COVID-19 vaccines and the wealthier countries buying them to “stop making bilateral deals,” noting bilateral deals hurt a U.N.-backed effort to widen access to the jabs.
He appealed to countries that have more jabs than they need to make some available to the COVAX Facility — the U.N.-backed project to get vaccines deployed widely.
He noted that 42 countries are now rolling out such vaccines, mostly high-income and a few middle-income countries.
Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO emergencies chief, reckons the appeal comes as the world has faced high case in recent weeks; with about 4 million new confirmed infections per week.
What they are saying
Ghebreyesus stated that:
“Now, we are also seeing both high- and middle-income countries that are part of COVAX making additional bilateral deals,” he told reporters in Geneva. “This potentially bumps up the price for everyone and means high-risk people in the poorest and most marginalized countries don’t get the vaccine.”
“I urge countries and manufacturers to stop making bilateral deals at the expense of COVAX,” said Tedros, the WHO director-general.
Dr. Bruce Aylward, a special adviser to the WHO chief, said “50% of high-income countries are deploying vaccines — and “zero percent” of poor countries are.”
“That is not equitable access,” he said.
Sharon Castillo, a Pfizer spokeswoman, said her company and BioNTech “are firmly committed to equitable and affordable access” to their vaccine for people around the world.
“As it relates to COVAX, we support its goal to supply two billion COVID-19 vaccine doses in 2021 to countries around the world, with half of those going to (low- and middle-income countries)” she said. “We are in active negotiations with COVAX to help it reach this goal and hope to finalize an agreement very soon.”
What you should know
- COVAX is a multilateral initiative aimed at ensuring global fair and equitable access, to accelerate up-front investment essential to deliver vaccine doses as soon as they become available.
- Team Europe contributed €500million to COVAX initiative to provide one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses for low-and middle-income countries.
- The €500 million comprises €400 million from the European Investment Bank, which was guaranteed by the European Fund for Sustainable Development, towards supporting the participation of low- and middle-income economies in COVAX Advance Market Commitment (COVAX AMC); as well as
- The grant support of €100 million from the European Commission to COVAX AMC.
- This funding from the European Commission and the European Investment Bank is expected to ensure that lower income economies are not left behind.
- The COVAX Facility has secured access so far to nearly 2 billion doses of vaccines produced by Swedish-British pharmaceutical maker AstraZeneca and its partner Oxford; the Serum Institute of India; U.S. giant Johnson & Johnson; and the partnership of France’s Sanofi and GSK of Britain.