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Rich countries have bought too many COVID-19 vaccines: Amnesty International

Rich countries have bought too many COVID-19 vaccines: Amnesty International

A needle is filled from a vial of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, Britain, Dec 8, 2020. (Photo: Owen Humphreys/Pool via REUTERS)

PARIS: Rich countries have secured enough coronavirus vaccines to protect their populations nearly three times over by the end of 2021, Amnesty International and other groups said on Wednesday (Dec 9), possibly depriving billions of people in poorer areas.

Britain approved Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine this month, raising hopes that the tide could soon turn against a virus that has killed nearly 1.5 million globally, hammered the world economy and upended normal life.

Amnesty and other organisations including Frontline AIDS, Global Justice Now and Oxfam, urged governments and the pharmaceutical industry to take action to ensure intellectual property of vaccines is shared widely.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also called on governments repeatedly this year to make a vaccine protecting against COVID-19 a "public good".

READ: UK warns people with serious allergies to avoid Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

The WHO has backed a global vaccine programme scheme known as COVAX, which seeks to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, and 189 countries have joined. But some countries such as the United States have not signed up, having secured bilateral deals.

COVAX hopes to deliver about 2 billion doses by the end of 2021 but that would still only represent about 20 per cent of the populations of countries that are part of the mechanism.

"Nearly 70 poor countries will only be able to vaccinate one in 10 people against COVID-19 next year unless urgent action is taken," Amnesty International said, based on recent calculations.

"Updated data shows that rich nations representing just 14 per cent of the world's population have bought up 53 per cent of all the most promising vaccines so far," it said.

Amnesty said Canada was the country that had bought the most shots when considering the size of its population, with enough doses to vaccinate every Canadian five times.

The organisation urged support for a proposal made by South Africa and India to the World Trade Organisation Council to waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments.

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Source: Reuters/dv

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