Divisions were seen at the virtual summit in Davos on Tuesday as nations called for a fair distribution of Covid-19 vaccines as they feared wealthy nations were hoarding them.
The annual meeting of business and government leaders at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alps went online due to the pandemic, but the organizers took the opportunity to promote global cooperation in combating the novel coronavirus.
With more than 100 million people infected, rich countries that have funded vaccine research are now raising their voices to ensure they get doses when tensions over late deliveries rise.
“Europe has invested billions to support the development of the world‘s first Covid-19 vaccine,” said EU leader Ursula von der Leyen in a live video address at the World Economic Forum.
“And now companies have to deliver. They have to meet their obligations,” she said.
The Commission is asking the British-Swedish group AstraZeneca and the US company Pfizer to respond to delays, both of which have announced that they have made deliveries to the European Union.
In a sign of concern that drug companies might sell the purpose-built doses to higher bidders outside the bloc, companies are urged to inform authorities about exports outside the European Union.
– “Vaccine Nationalism” –
Von der Leyen underlined this initiative in her speech and said: “We will set up a mechanism for the transparency of vaccine exports” to ensure that the companies meet their contractual obligations to the EU.
However, she also stressed that through its participation in the World Health Organization-led COVAX Vaccine Alliance, the EU had sought to ensure that the vaccine was available in poorer non-EU countries.
She said the initiative would ensure that millions of doses are available to poorer countries.
While Germany has also supported the control of vaccine exports, Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a “fair” distribution in her speech.
“Make no mistake about it, the question of who gets which vaccine in the world will of course leave new wounds and new memories, because those who receive such emergency aid will remember them.”
But such promises have not reassured less developed countries.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has opposed “vaccine nationalism” and accused rich countries of buying coronavirus vaccines in large quantities and hoarding them to the detriment of others.
“The rich countries of the world are holding on to these vaccines and we say, release the excess vaccines that you ordered and hoarded.”
Ramaphosa’s comments coincide with growing concerns that bilateral deals between wealthier governments and coronavirus vaccine manufacturers could raise prices and reduce supply in some regions.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned of vaccination nationalism and price cuts last year before a successful sting was found.
“It is natural that countries want to protect their own citizens first, but if we have an effective vaccine, we have to use it effectively,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the World Health Summit last October.
He said the best way to do this is to vaccinate some people in all countries, rather than all people in some countries.
“Let me be clear: vaccine nationalism will make the pandemic longer, not shorter.”
South Africa is the African country hardest hit by Covid-19.
Last week it announced it had reached an agreement to purchase at least 1.5 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine from Oxford-AstraZeneca – but at a price 2.5 times higher than most European countries.
– “Vaccination panic” –
With the emergence and rapid spread of more contagious coronavirus variants, “right now, many countries want a global vaccine panic, many countries want doses starting today,” said Seth Berkley of the Vaccine Alliance, one of the organizations trying to ensure poorer nations doses receive.
He said his group will start dispensing vaccines in February and intends to dispense two billion doses by the end of 2021.
Epidemiologists hired by the International Chamber of Commerce calculated that even if wealthy nations vaccinate their own populations, global interdependence means that if poorer nations do not have access to vaccines, they pay $ 200-4.5 trillion.
“Those numbers are far higher than the $ 38 billion cost to manufacture and distribute vaccines worldwide,” the ICC report said.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)