Amnesty blames top COVID jab makers for vaccine inequality

Amnesty International says six leading COVID jab manufacturers are ‘wheeling and dealing in favour of wealthy states’.

Supporters of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) march to demand a rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, in Pretoria, South Africa [File: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters]

Six top manufacturers of the COVID-19 vaccine “are fuelling an unprecedented human rights crisis through their refusal to waive intellectual property rights and share vaccine technology”, Amnesty International said in a report.

In the report released on Wednesday, titled “A Double Dose of Inequality”, the rights group denounced AstraZeneca, BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Novavax and Pfizer for “wheeling and dealing in favour of wealthy states”.

“Vaccinating the world is our only pathway out of this crisis,” said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general.

“It should be time to hail these companies, who created vaccines so quickly, as heroes. But instead, to their shame and our collective grief, Big Pharma’s intentional blocking of knowledge transfer and their  wheeling and dealing in favour of wealthy states has brewed an utterly predictable and utterly devastating vaccine scarcity for so many others.”

Amnesty said it reviewed each company’s human rights policy, vaccine pricing structure, records on intellectual property, knowledge and technology sharing, the fair allocation of available vaccine doses, and transparency.

It said the research found that to differing degrees, the six vaccine developers failed to meet their human rights responsibilities.

“Out of 5.76 billion doses administered worldwide, a paltry 0.3 percent have gone to low-income countries with over 79 percent going to upper-middle- and high-income countries,” the report said.

“Despite calls to prioritise and collaborate with COVAX Facility, the international instrument aiming to ensure a fair global vaccine allocation, some of the assessed companies have continued to stock up vaccine supplies for states known to be hoarding the vaccine.”

The report added that all the companies assessed have refused to take part in internationally coordinated initiatives designed to boost global supply by sharing knowledge and technology.

Amnesty said that the companies have also opposed proposals to temporarily lift intellectual property rights, such as the World Trade Organization Trade Related Intellectual Property Rules (TRIPS) Waiver proposed by India and South Africa.

“Today marks 100 days until the end of the year. We’re calling on states and pharmaceutical companies to drastically change course and to do everything needed to deliver two billion vaccines to low- and lower-middle income countries starting now. No one should spend another year suffering and living in fear,” said Callamard.

On Tuesday, Colombian President Ivan Duque told the UN General Assembly that the international community must equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines to avoid the creation of new, more fearsome variants of the coronavirus.

“I call on the international community to strengthen multilateralism in regards to health and advance in vaccine distribution equity. It is our moral duty,” Duque said.

“If delays in the equal distribution of vaccines continue in all countries, we, humanity, are exposed to new variants attacking us with greater ferocity. Global immunity requires solidarity, so hoarding cannot exist in the face of others’ needs.”

Source: Al Jazeera