By Naima Mohamed
It’s about 13 months since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic.
The disease is not selective and everyone is at risk. We’ve lost many healthcare workers, about 106 million people have been infected and nearly 2.31 Million people have succumbed. The only way out is through the vaccine.
However, massive global demand and high purchasing power of wealthier nations leaves Africa and other developing nations behind when it comes to accessing the vaccines. The sad thing is that wealthier nations have been hoarding the vaccines. A good example is Canada that ordered enough vaccines to vaccinate its population five times. There exists unfair distribution and purchase of the existing vaccines. We must do everything possible to increase vaccine production for all and put an end to the pandemic. Many countries have been championing and speaking of the unfair distribution of vaccines.
I believe donation or charity by organisations and developed nations won’t be enough and will take long. What we need is for pharmaceutical companies to give local companies licensing and technology transfer, so that they can produce the vaccines locally, as advocated by the global movement NOW! However, Pfizer did not commit to any suspension of IP rights and proactively opposed WHO’s proposal for a voluntary pool of patents
Other companies have taken steps to ensure they do their part in ending the pandemic (although not enough). For instance, Oxford AstraZeneca will sell vaccines to developing nations at a cost price for most of 2021 and not for profit. However, they have been low production which has limited the rate at which the vaccine has rolled out.
This is a critical time as thousands are contracting Covid -19 and losing their lives. This is not the time for companies to be withholding the information and licensing rights.
Technology transfer, sharing of licences will enable massive production of the vaccine and on the brighter side, companies will still be making profits. This can also be done during certain duration. When companies in developing nations will be at a position to produce the vaccines, then we won’t be worrying much about fair distribution and massive loss of lives, especially when the solution are right in front of us.
What we need is unity and care. Sharing of licences and technologies shouldn’t be just for this pandemic. Imagine how fast we would have stopped the spread of the pandemic if we were united and all produced our own vaccines. Wealthier nations would not be hoarding supplies anymore.
There are many campaigns out there to ensure fair distribution and to prevent developed nations from hoarding the vaccines. You can join our campaign at NOW! by going on our website and sending an email to the CEO of Pfizer, asking him to do the right thing and save lives.
Naima Mohamed is an environmental scientist and a writer