Across Africa and Southeast Asia, governments and aid groups, as well as the WHO, are calling on pharmaceutical companies to share their patent information more broadly to meet a yawning global shortfall in a pandemic that already has claimed nearly 2.5 million lives.
Pharmaceutical companies that took taxpayer money from the US or Europe to develop inoculations at unprecedented speed say they are negotiating contracts and exclusive licensing deals with producers on a case-by-case basis because they need to protect their intellectual property and ensure safety.
Critics say this piecemeal approach is just too slow at a time of urgent need to stop the virus before it mutates into even deadlier forms.
In February, the World Health Organisation called for vaccine manufacturers to share their know-how to “dramatically increase the global supply.”
India hits out at rich nations
India has slammed developed nations that are seeking to block its joint initiative with South Africa for patent waiver on COVID-19 vaccines and drugs. It has also accused them of trying to protect the commercial interests of a few companies.
It has requested the World Trade Organisation (WTO) members to decide on the issue urgently, given the massive impact of the pandemic.
Supply of COVID vaccine falling short, limited amount going to rich nations
All over the world, the supply of coronavirus vaccines is falling far short of demand, and the limited amount available is going to rich countries. Nearly 80% of the vaccines so far have been administered in just 10 countries, according to WHO.
More than 210 countries with a collective population of 2.5 billion haven’t received a single shot.
The deal-by-deal approach also means that some poorer countries end up paying more for the same vaccine than richer countries.
South Africa, Mexico, Brazil and Uganda all pay different amounts per dose for the same AstraZeneca vaccine, more than governments in the European Union, according to studies and publicly available documents.