Vaccines for just one in eight people delivered to Sub-Saharan Africa

Vaccines for just one in eight people delivered to Sub-Saharan Africa

Oxfam Ireland, as part of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, today (06.12.2021), marked the one-year anniversary of Northern Ireland grandmother Margaret Keenan becoming the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, by publishing data on the vaccine doses delivered to countries across the world.

The data provides a stark comparison on the access to vaccines for countries across the world, with Sub-Saharan Africa having received only enough doses to vaccinate 1 in 8 people.

On an individual country level, Democratic Republic of the Congo for example has received enough doses to vaccinate just one percent of the country’s population, in contrast to wealthy countries like Ireland where the entire population is almost fully vaccinated and booster campaigns are well underway.

The World Health Organisation recently highlighted that six times more booster shots are being administered daily around the globe than primary doses in low-income countries.

Vaccine Inequity Contributing to Emergence of Covid-19 Variants

On highlighting the new data, the development agency has reiterated its condemnation of the Irish Government and European Commission for their continued efforts to block the TRIPS Waiver on Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments at World Trade Organisation talks.

The temporary waiver would suspend patent rules on these products and enable increased production of Covid-19 vaccines, increasing access in low- and middle-income countries.  

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland CEO commented today: “Vaccine inequity has created the perfect breeding ground for new variants such as Omicron. This should be a wake-up call.

"We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past 21 months. With Norway becoming the latest country to support the TRIPS waiver just last week, we now need Ireland and the EU to chart a new path forward. They must step up and insist the pharmaceutical companies start sharing their science and technology with qualified manufacturers around the world, so we can vaccinate people in all countries and finally end this pandemic.

“It’s shameful that, according to the World Health Organisation, six times more booster shots are being administered daily around the globe than primary doses in low-income countries. We should not forget that the new Omicron variant was first discovered by scientists in countries which have been denied the right to produce their own vaccines.”

Oxfam Demands for Irish Government

Oxfam Ireland has also published a list of demands calling on the Irish Government and the European Commission to:

  • Ensure immediate approval of the waiving of intellectual property rules through a TRIPS waiver at the World Trade Organisation, to end the monopoly control of pharmaceutical firms over COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments. The World Trade Organization (WHO) General Council must urgently reconvene now, not next year, to approve this waiver.
  • Endorse and support the World Health Organisation (WHO) COVID Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) to facilitate the sharing of knowledge by pharmaceutical companies to increase vaccine production.
  • Declare all vaccines, including new versions of vaccines designed to combat the Omicron variant ‘global public goods’, and share vaccine recipes openly with producers worldwide via the World Health Organisation.

Oxfam Ireland along with the People’s Vaccine Alliance Ireland has also written to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment asking for a review of Ireland and the EU’s opposition to the TRIPS waiver, with input from international experts. The waiver comes under the trade function of this committee.

Mr. Clarken continued: “Business as usual has led to huge profits for pharmaceutical firms, but many people left unvaccinated, meaning that this virus continues to mutate. It is the definition of madness to keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome. We need to press reset.

 “Fighting to buy up limited supplies of hugely expensive vaccines to protect our own citizens whilst ignoring the rest of the world will only lead to more variants, more mutations, more restrictions and more lives lost.

“With the new threat of the Omicron variant, it is clear that we cannot just booster our way out of the pandemic while leaving much of the developing world behind. Unless all countries are vaccinated as soon as possible, we could see wave after wave of variants.

“What is the point in developing new vaccines in 100 days if they are then only sold in limited amounts to the highest bidder, once again leaving poor nations at the back of the queue?”

The People’s Vaccine Alliance of which Oxfam is a co-founder has created a virtual memorial wall will be revealed at www.peoplesvaccine.org/memorial-wall on Wednesday, 8th December, marking a year since the first vaccine was administered.