Global vaccination failure has created fertile ground for Omicron, activists say – World

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One year after receiving the first Pfizer vaccine, sub-Saharan Africa has received only enough doses to fully immunize 1 in 8 people

People’s Vaccine Alliance activists say the refusal of pharmaceutical companies to openly share their vaccine science and technology and the lack of action by rich countries to ensure access to vaccines globally has created the perfect breeding ground for new variants such as Omicron.

A year after a British grandmother became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer / BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, great strides have been made to fully immunize more than three billion people, but many of the world’s most the world’s poor have been left behind. While countries like the UK and Canada have received enough doses to fully immunize their entire population, sub-Saharan Africa has only received enough doses to immunize 1 in 8 people. in the UK who had their third booster injection is almost the same as the total number of fully vaccinated people in all of the world’s poorest countries.

The People’s Vaccine Alliance, which has more than 80 members, including the African Alliance, Oxfam and UNAIDS, calls on pharmaceutical companies and rich countries to change course before it is too late. This should include:

  • Immediate approval of the lifting of intellectual property rules to end the monopoly control of pharmaceutical companies over COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments. The General Council of the World Trade Organization (WHO) urgently needs to meet now, not next year, to finally get a waiver.
  • All vaccines, including new versions of vaccines designed to control the Omicron variant, will be declared global public goods, and vaccine recipes and know-how will be openly shared with producers around the world through the WHO.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS and Co-Chair of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, said: “Omicron is with us because we have failed to vaccinate the world. It should be a wake-up call.

“The status quo has generated huge profits for pharmaceutical companies, but many people are not vaccinated, which means this virus continues to mutate. It’s the definition of insanity to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. We need to press reset.

“We call on Pfizer, Moderna, BioNTech and others to change course. You made huge profits last year. We now have vaccine billionaires. You don’t need to earn more money. Changing your vaccines to meet the Omicron challenge is no good if your vaccine recipes are once again locked behind a wall of profit and monopoly.

The Alliance also calls on rich countries to change course by using all their powers to insist on the open sharing of vaccine technology and know-how and to fund a huge expansion of vaccine production worldwide. .

In March, the Alliance and 77 epidemiologists from some of the world’s leading academic institutions warned that unless we vaccinate the world, we would be exposed to viral mutations that could render our current vaccines ineffective.

Maaza Seyoum, African Alliance and People’s Vaccine Alliance Africa, said: “Fighting to buy limited stocks of extremely expensive vaccines to protect your own citizens while ignoring the rest of the world will only lead to more variants, no more mutations, no more blockages and no more lives lost. The same rulers, having repeatedly failed the world while allowing profits, are now throwing responsibility on the doorstep of countries they have ignored.

“Pharmaceutical monopolies and profits have prevented vaccination in Africa and the rest of the developing world. It is time for drug companies and rich countries to finally put protecting people and ending this pandemic before profits, monopolies and doomed attempts to protect themselves while allowing this disease to spread throughout the world. the rest of the world. “

Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s Health Policy Officer, said: “With the new threat from the Omicron variant, it is clear that we cannot just get out of the pandemic while leaving much of the developing world behind. we. Unless all countries are vaccinated as early as possible, we might see waves of variants.

“What is the point of developing new vaccines in 100 days if they are then sold only in limited quantities to the highest bidder, once again leaving poor countries at the back of the pack?”

“We cannot correct the mistakes of the past 21 months, but we need rich countries to chart a new course in which they step up and insist that pharmaceutical companies start sharing their science and technology with qualified manufacturers around the world. whole, so that we can vaccinate people. in all countries and finally end the pandemic. “

In a statement sent to European Union negotiators and member states this week, the People’s Vaccine Alliance joined more than 170 charities, NGOs, unions and campaign groups – including ONE Campaign and the International Union of food workers – to criticize the EU’s opposition to waiving intellectual property rules. The statement said that “the identification of the Omicron variant only heightens the urgency of a change in approach and shows why the EU position is a threat to all of us.”

Last week, Norway was the last of more than 100 countries to offer support for the waiver. Meanwhile, President Emmanuel Macron is withdrawing France’s previous support, a move the Alliance has called ridiculous and dangerous in the face of the new variant.

John Mark Mwanika, ITF President for Urban Transport, Uganda, said: “It is not only shameful that six times more booster doses are given daily than primary doses in low income countries, it is a shame. is a huge risk to end the pandemic in the world.

“It is no coincidence that the new variant of Omicron was first discovered by scientists in countries that have been denied the right to produce their own vaccines. We are in a global emergency and workers are paying the price, especially in the Global South. “

The People’s Vaccine Alliance has created a virtual memorial wall to honor and remember those who have lost their lives to COVID-19, and to demand that leaders act to prevent more deaths.

Notes to Editors

  • The People’s Vaccine Alliance has created a virtual memorial wall that will be revealed at www.peoplesvaccine.org/memorial-wall December 8, marking one year since the administration of the first vaccine.
  • Countries in sub-Saharan Africa have received enough doses to fully immunize 136,765,144 people, or 12.8% of the total population or 1 in 8, according to Airfinity data analyzed by the People’s Vaccine Alliance.
  • Figures on the number of vaccines received by the UK and other Western countries come from Airfinity.
  • According to Our world in data 19.9 million people in low-income countries are fully immunized. As of December 2, the UK had given booster doses to just over 19 million people, according to: https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/vaccinations
  • Information on the survey of epidemiologists carried out by the People’s Vaccine Alliance in March available here.
  • The full declaration to the EU and the list of signatories are available here.

Contact information

Sarah Dransfield in United Kingdom | SDransfield@oxfam.org.uk | +44 (0) 7884 114825
Annie Thériault in Peru | annie.theriault@oxfam.org | +51 936 307 990


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