A medical charity has slammed wealthier countries for “snatching up” more than their fair share of the global COVID-19 vaccine supply. The charity has also urged companies who have developed the vaccine to share the data so the vaccine can be produced by other organisations.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) executive co-director Dr Sidney Wong warned that the lifesaving vaccinations need to be scaled up with more companies able to make the vaccine in order for it to be useful worldwide.
“While the world waits with bated breath for the possible approval of these COVID-19 vaccines, it’s not time to celebrate yet,” he said.
“Right now, we’re in a situation where a lion’s share of the limited number of first doses have already been snatched up by a handful of countries like the US and UK, as well as the EU, leaving very little for other countries in the short term.
“What we really want to see is a rapid expansion of the overall global supply, so there are more vaccines to go around and doses can be allocated according to WHO’s public health criteria, not a country’s ability to pay.”
The UK has started to roll out around 800,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to those in vulnerable categories, including the elderly.
Grandmother Margaret Keenan, 90, was the first to get the jab and said: “My advice to anyone offered the vaccine is to take it. If I can have it at 90 then you can have it too.”
“I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19.”
The touching moment bought UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock to tears.
“This simple act of vaccination is a tribute to scientific endeavour, to human ingenuity, and to the hard work of so many people,” he said.
“Today marks the start of the fightback against our common enemy, coronavirus, and while today is a day to celebrate there is much work to be done.”
Britain is currently the only country to have approved a vaccine so far, but competition for the remaining supply is set to intensify as more countries wait and see the results of the British vaccine.
Policy Advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign, Dana Gill, said by keeping critical information like the costs of research and development and trials hidden from the public, companies are “shirking” their responsibilities.
“The public has a right to know. Without transparency, the public cannot assess fair pricing and governments cannot negotiate lower prices based on true costs. Pfizer and Moderna should set a new example of accountability and open their books. No company should be allowed to profiteer off the back of this pandemic.”
Earlier this month, the United Nations Children’s director Henrietta Fore said that the COVID-19 pandemic has been the first “truly global” crisis the world has faced and called for equality.
“As we begin to imagine a day when COVID-19 is behind us, our guiding principle must be that the light at the end of the tunnel needs to shine for all,” she said, saying the COVAX facility is the best way to ensure equitable distribution.
“This would not only be fundamentally unfair, it would be unwise. The whole world will remain vulnerable to the virus until countries with the weakest health systems are protected from it as well.”
This article originally appeared on Over60.