Week 14: What’s happening in the world of the vaccine?

Ady Barkan secures a rhetorical commitment from Joe Biden on access to the vaccine, while Gavi’s agreements with donor countries appear to pose problems for access.

Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden Promises to Share Access to Vaccine

In a conversation with healthcare activist and UAEM alum Ady Barkan, Joe Biden promised that if elected, he would share US-developed COVID-19 technologies and ensure that patents do not stand in the way of other countries accessing the vaccine. While this commitment is currently only rhetorical and not a full-fledged plan, it’s incredibly important that we have this assurance, which will allow activists to hold the president accountable if Biden is elected. It also represents a deviation from the current administration’s approach of vaccine nationalism.

Rich Donor Countries Will “Have Their Cake And Eat It Too” With Gavi’s Covax Facility

Last month, Gavi informed governments considering donating to its new Covax Facility that donors would be able to “benefit from a larger portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines,” with donor governments receiving vaccine doses for 20% of their populations, no strings attached, when a vaccine is discovered in Gavi’s pool of candidates. This includes countries which have already made agreements with pharmaceutical companies to secure the world’s drug supply for their own citizens, like the United States.

According to this arrangement, the rules will be different for rich and poor countries. Although poor countries will also receive donated vaccines from Gavi, unlike rich countries, they will have to follow a particular immunization framework set by the United Nations. Furthermore, rich donor countries will not be required to donate vaccines if their supply exceeds public health need. While Gavi has argued that such incentives are necessary to ensure investment from rich countries, activists worry that the deals being made right now tip the balance in favor of rich countries. Gavi and other organizations will have to bargain later on in order to ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine–but by that point, they may have less to bargain with.

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