GENEVA (dpa-AFX) – According to the World Health Organization (WHO), rich and poor countries have very unequal access to vaccines not only in the case of Covid-19, but also against other diseases. The vaccine against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer, has been introduced in only 41 percent of low-income countries – compared with 83 percent of rich countries, a WHO vaccination report released Wednesday said.
Insufficient affordability of products is also an obstacle. Middle-income countries sometimes even paid more than richer ones because of price differences. “The right to health includes the right to vaccines,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The report shows that free market dynamics are denying this right to some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, a total of about 16 billion doses of vaccines worth US$141 billion were shipped in 2021, almost three times the market size in 2019. The numbers show the potential for expanding vaccine production, according to the WHO. However, production is in the hands of several manufacturers. Ten companies supplied 70 percent of the vaccine doses – excluding Corona. Some of the 20 most commonly used vaccines, such as rubella and measles, came from only two suppliers.
Intellectual property monopolies and limited technology transfer limit the ability to build and use local production capacity, according to the WHO. Another danger is limited investment in such vaccines, which are only in high demand during outbreaks, such as cholera, typhoid, monkeypox and Ebola. This could be “devastating to people’s lives,” the report said.
The response to the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated that vaccines can be developed in a fraction of the time previously required. It also cemented the status of vaccines as a public good. To promote equitable access to vaccines, the report calls on governments to develop clear vaccination plans, strengthen oversight of vaccine development, production and distribution, and ensure regional research and production centers./mrd/DP/ngu