Organisations have reacted with “disgust” to reports the United Kingdom threw away more than 600,000 vaccine doses.
Australians fighting to secure more vaccines for poorer countries have reacted with “disgust” to reports the United Kingdom threw away more than 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The doses were reportedly discarded in August after being allowed to pass their expiry date following Britain’s decision to stop offering the vaccine to young people due to the risk of rare blood clots.
The wastage, which is a great loss to poorer countries struggling to access Covid vaccines, was revealed in data obtained by The Independent through a Freedom of Information request.
End Covid For All spokesman Reverend Tim Costello told news.com.au he felt “disgusted” at hearing the news.
“We are all ultimately equally vulnerable and interdependent, particularly to mutant strains … which can eventually shut us down again,” he said.
“With that knowledge in mind … to see 600,000 doses go to waste is really quite immoral.”
Experts have warned it could take less than a year before Covid-19 mutated to the point where the majority of vaccines were rendered ineffective if authorities did not act fast enough to vaccinate the whole world.
Reverend Costello believes that one of the problems is that the COVAX facility, which is the worldwide initiative aimed at making sure all countries have access to vaccines, is now seen as a charity, not as an organisation for justice and equity.
He believes this is one of the reasons the 600,000 doses were wasted, because the charity model encourages the world’s poor to be seen as an “afterthought”.
It becomes a case of “if we think of it, we’ll try and get them (the doses) out”.
Rev Costello said many rich countries including Australia had stockpiled up to five times the amount of vaccine doses they needed.
“We bought them all,” he said. “Now less than 4 per cent of people in Kenya are vaccinated, in Nigeria it’s less than 2 per cent.”
Rev Costello also noted that Australia, like many other countries, had promised to donate millions of vaccine doses, but the actual number of jabs delivered was often a lot lower.
Australia has committed to sharing 60 million vaccines with its neighbours in the Indo-Pacific by the end of 2022. However, as of early last month, only 3.57 million vaccines had been shared.
The UK also made a commitment at the G7 summit in June, to donate 100 million doses by mid next year, with only 20 million doses sent overseas so far.
“It’s really horrible to put it this way but when they say human rights are universal … we mean only the rights of those who vote for us,” Rev Costello said.
Oxfam described the wastage of vaccine doses in the UK as “an absolute scandal” and it estimates another 100 million doses at least could go unused and expire in G7 by the end of the year.
“There’s a clear case that rich countries have to get their act together here,” Oxfam health policy manager Anna Marriott told The Independent.
“Their short-sighted vaccine nationalism and their free pass to big pharmaceutical giants to profit as much as they like from these publicly funded vaccines is prolonging the pandemic and costing lives.”
The Department of Health told news.com.au on September 16 that rates of vaccine wastage ranged between 1 per cent and 2 per cent in Australia.
Further requests for a more concise figure did not receive a reply.
Vaccine companies making almost $90k every minute
It comes as analysis showed companies responsible for some Covid vaccines were making a combined profit of $US65,000 ($AU89,000) a minute.
Pfizer and BioNTech, which created the Comirnaty vaccine, and Moderna, which is responsible for Spikevax, have been estimated to make pre-tax profits of $US34 billion this year.
The figure was released by the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a coalition campaigning for wider access to Covid vaccines, which based its calculations on the firms’ own earning reports.
“It is obscene that just a few companies are making millions of dollars in profit every single hour, while just two per cent of people in low-income countries have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus,” Maaza Seyoum of the African Alliance and People’s Vaccine Alliance Africa said.
“Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna have used their monopolies to prioritise the most profitable contracts with the richest governments, leaving low-income countries out in the cold.”
Pfizer and BioNTech have delivered less than one per cent of their total supplies to low-income countries while Moderna has delivered just 0.2 per cent, the PVA said.
Currently, about 98 per cent of people in low-income countries have not been fully vaccinated.
In contrast, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have provided their vaccines on a not-for-profit basis, although AZ recently announced it would begin charging some countries.
PVA, whose 80 members include the African Alliance, Global Justice Now, Oxfam, and UNAIDS, is calling for pharmaceutical corporations to immediately suspend intellectual property rights for Covid vaccines by agreeing to a proposed waiver of World Trade Organisation’s TRIPS agreement.
More than 100 nations, including the United States, back that move, but it is being blocked by rich countries including the UK and Germany.
— with AFP