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Coronavirus vaccines: Oxfam says rich countries have bought up half of future supplies

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By Euronews
A health worker volunteer receives a COVID-19 vaccine in a trial at the Sao Lucas Hospital, Porto Alegre, Brazil, August 8, 2020.
A health worker volunteer receives a COVID-19 vaccine in a trial at the Sao Lucas Hospital, Porto Alegre, Brazil, August 8, 2020.   -   Copyright  SILVIO AVILA / AFP

More than half of the promised doses of coronavirus vaccines have already been snatched up by wealthy nations, Oxfam has claimed.

The international charity says its study of deals already struck by drugs companies and producers, for the supply of vaccines at an advanced research stage, shows that 51% have been bought up by countries representing just 13% of the world's population.

Oxfam and other leading charitable organisations are calling for an overhaul of corporate practices so that a "People's Vaccine" is available to everyone.

Its findings, based on data from the UK software company Airfinity, coincide with Thursday's meeting of G20 health and finance ministers to discuss the global pandemic.

Oxfam also warns that even if all five leading potential vaccines succeed, 61% of the world's population won't have a vaccine until at least 2022.

It claims that one leading developer intends to make a profit and has pledged all of its supply to rich nations, despite receiving over two billion euros in public subsidies. And although another company has pledged two-thirds of doses to developing countries, supplies could still only reach under four in ten of the world's population.

The study exposes a "broken system that protects the monopolies and profits of pharmaceutical corporations" and artificially restricts production, Oxfam says.

The deals also reveal "stark inequalities" between countries, according to the charity. While some, like the UK, have secured deals to supply the equivalent of five doses per head of population, Bangladesh has only lined up one dose for every nine people, it claims.

"Access to a life-saving vaccine shouldn’t depend on where you live or how much money you have," said Robert Silverman of Oxfam America.

"The development and approval of a safe and effective vaccine is crucial, but equally important is making sure the vaccines are available and affordable to everyone. COVID-19 anywhere is COVID-19 everywhere."

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Union have backed the COVAX initiative, working for global and fair access across the world to coronavirus vaccines. In August the WHO said 172 countries and vaccine developers were engaged in the process.