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Covid-19: 4,000,000 death toll must push rich governments and big pharma to act

Scientist uses pipette and test tube to carry out research into Covid-19 vaccine
Vaccine developers have received more than 70 billion pounds in public funding, yet not a single vaccine developer has agreed to waive patents © Unsplash

One person dying from virus every 11 seconds, with poorer countries bearing brunt

Nine new vaccine billionaires have profited from pandemic yet vast swathes of world have no access to jab

‘Equal access to vaccines shouldn’t be based on where you live’ - Agnès Callamard

Reacting to the news that four million people have now died globally from Covid-19, according to data from John Hopkins University, Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said:

“This devastating milestone must spur richer governments and companies into immediate action. How many more millions must die before the knowledge and technology to produce enough vaccines for everyone are made universally available?

“Because vast swathes of the world have little or no access to vaccines, one person is still dying from Covid-19 every 11 seconds - mostly in lower-income countries. Equal access to vaccines shouldn’t be based on where you live, it’s a basic human right.

“The death toll continues unabated in Latin America, while India and Nepal have faced deadly surges, and health systems in Indonesia and Southern Africa are at risk of being overwhelmed.

“Many of these countries are still facing acute vaccine shortages which can only be resolved by both urgently sharing doses and removing the barriers preventing the scale up of global production.

“World leaders must support moves to lift intellectual property restrictions on life-saving products, and push pharmaceutical companies to share their knowledge and technology. This is a global issue that requires urgent global action now. No one is safe, until everyone is safe.”

World’s poor left unprotected

If current trends continue, it will take the world’s poorest countries until 2078 to vaccinate their populations. Meanwhile rich countries are likely to vaccinate their populations by January 2022.

Thirty-three countries have now provided at least one vaccine dose to more than half their populations, according to Our World In Data figures. All but three - Mongolia, Maldives and Bhutan - are high income countries. Eighty-five per cent of vaccine doses have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries, compared to just 0.3% in low-income countries, according to the New York Times’ vaccine tracker.

Compared to January, when world deaths passed two million, the numbers of people dying each week in richer countries has reduced from 51,614 to 4,015 - a 92% fall - according to figures collated by the World Health Organisation. The UK alone has administered nearly twice as many jabs as the entire African continent, despite its population being a twentieth of the size.

Globally, 53,861 people are reported to have died of Covid-19 during the week commencing 28 June - equating to one person every 11 seconds. 

Patent waivers

Of the G7 nations, only the US has explicitly supported waiving patents for vaccines. Japan has said it will not oppose the move if it is agreed, Germany and the UK continue to vehemently oppose the plan, while Canada, Italy and France have made no clear policy statements.

Vaccine developers have received more than 70 billion pounds in public funding, yet not a single vaccine developer has agreed to participate in the WHO’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), set up more than a year ago to facilitate the sharing of life-saving intellectual property and technology. Major pharmaceutical firms - including Moderna and Pfizer - are meanwhile making huge profits, and nine new vaccine billionaires have been created since the beginning of the pandemic.

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