Big Pharmaceuticals Fuel Human Rights Crisis Over Vaccine Inequalities, Amnesty Says
Major Western manufacturers of Covid-19 vaccines are “violating human rights” by prioritizing rich countries and refusing to share intellectual property (IP) and technology, Amnesty International said in a statement. report released today.
The human rights group accused six companies – Pfizer, BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax – of neglecting their responsibility to respect human rights by not distributing vaccine doses fairly across the world.
In the 64-page report, the organization also cites unfair pricing and a lack of transparency about contracts, pricing and technology as factors contributing to the desperate inequity of vaccines seen in the poorest countries.
âDespite receiving billions of dollars in government funding and advance orders that effectively removed the risks normally associated with drug development, vaccine developers have monopolized intellectual property, blocked technology transfers, and lobbied aggressively against measures that would expand the global manufacture of these vaccines, “It said.
âSome companies – Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna – have so far delivered almost exclusively to rich countries, putting profit ahead of access to health for all. “
According to the report, 98% of all Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipments had been allocated to high and upper middle income countries as of early September. Amnesty said this was also the case for 88% of Moderna’s jabs, which is not yet delivered a single dose to a low-income country.
Accumulation of vaccines and inequalities
While nearly six billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered worldwide so far – and richer countries have started to vaccinate children and offer additional booster shots – a meager 0.3% of the injections were distributed to the poorest countries in the world.
About 55% of people in rich countries are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, compared to less than 1% in low-income countries, Amnesty said.
The report acknowledges that wealthy states have built up stocks of Covid-19 vaccines, but said vaccine manufacturers have “played a decisive role in limiting global vaccine production and preventing equitable access to a commodity. vital health âby refusing to take action that will increase the global vaccine supply.
Since the start of the pandemic, several initiatives have been launched to tackle the vaccine shortage by sharing knowledge and technology. To date, the companies mentioned in Amnesty’s report have refused to participate in these programs and remain opposed to the temporary waiver of vaccine intellectual property offered to the World Trade Organization (WTO) by India and the United Nations. ‘South Africa last year.
Professional biopharmaceutical associations have argued that relinquishing intellectual property rights to vaccines would undermine innovation in drug development. In April, the CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, Michelle McMurry-Heath, argued in a guest editorial for The Economist that the WTO proposal “destroys the incentive for companies to take risks to find solutions to the next health emergency â.
100 days to act
Along with the release of its report, Amnesty launched a global campaign giving countries and pharmaceutical companies 100 days – until the end of the year – to reach the World Health Organization‘s goal of immunizing 40 % of population in low and lower middle income countries. .
The group urges countries to “redistribute hundreds of millions of currently unused surplus vaccine doses,” and wants vaccine manufacturers to ensure that at least 50% of doses produced are delivered to low- and lower-middle-income countries .
Amnesty International Secretary General AgnÃ¨s Callamard said: âVaccinating the world is our only way out of this crisis. Now should be the time to salute those companies – who created vaccines so quickly – as heroes.
âBut instead – and to their shame – the intentional blocking of knowledge transfer by the big pharmaceutical companies and their transfer and transactions in favor of rich states has created an utterly devastating vaccine shortage for so many others.
âTheir actions are plunging regions of Latin America, Africa and Asia into new crises, pushing weakened health systems to the brink of collapse and causing tens of thousands of preventable deaths every week. In many low-income countries, even health workers or people at risk have not received the vaccine.
âAgainst the backdrop of these glaring inequalities, BioNTech, Moderna and Pfizer are expected to earn a combined $ 130 billion by the end of 2022.
âProfits should never come before lives. ”