How will coronavirus end? 4 reasons we need a People’s Vaccine

A year since the World Health Organisation declared the Covid-19 pandemic and we were first urged to ‘stay home’, we are all still desperate to know, how will coronavirus end?

The human, social and economic damage continues to take its toll. People have lost their lives, health, and jobs. Life as we know it has stalled for billions of people.

Scientists have provided a light at the end of the tunnel, with the promise to bring coronavirus under control. Through innovation and research, they have developed safe and effective vaccines that will save lives and allow us to hug our loved ones again.

But vaccines will only help end the Covid-19 pandemic if everyone gets access. Oxfam supports a People’s Vaccine, free and available to all.

Here are 4 reasons why we need a People’s Vaccine:

1. There aren’t enough vaccines to go around

While vaccine programmes are being rolled out in a handful of countries, there simply aren’t enough for the global population. The World Health Organization has said we need to vaccinate at least 70% of the world to manage coronavirus properly. Yet at the rate we are going, some are predicting this won’t be achieved for five years or more.

2. The shortage of vaccines affects us all

We have seen this virus spread across the world at a terrifying speed, causing massive suffering in rich and poor countries alike. Until everyone has access to Covid-19 vaccines, the impacts of coronavirus will continue to affect us all. And the road to recovery will be much longer.

The longer the virus is allowed to circulate in countries with very low numbers of vaccinated people, the higher the chances of mutations. The vaccines people in rich countries have had may be less effective against these mutations.”

Anna Marriott, Oxfam GB Health Policy Advisor

While the economic costs are intolerable for all countries, coronavirus has hit the poorest nations hardest. Poverty and hunger are on the rise for the first time in two decades. And social distancing measures are near impossible for people in crowded cities who must leave home every day to make a living.

Rehaf Batniji/ Oxfam

“The coronavirus pandemic caused major disruption in many big projects and businesses that employ a lot of young men and women. When the pandemic forced us to stay home many families were affected as they depend on their daily earnings for living. The spread of the virus is a major concern for me as our health system is barely functional and lacks all sorts of supplies and equipment. Therefore, we do not go out much, and my children rarely leave the home or mix with others.”

Jilan, 27, Gaza.

This is a global pandemic that requires a global response.

A failure to act is not just wrong but self-defeating and short-sighted – as long as the virus is allowed to spread in other parts of the world, public health and economic recovery in the UK will continue to be under threat.”

Anna Marriott, Oxfam's Health Policy Manager

Our best chance of keeping us all safe is to make covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatment freely available for all. No one is safe until everyone is safe.

3. Charitable efforts help but are not enough

There are some efforts to distribute vaccines more equally across the world. The Covax scheme is one of these. Covax is set up to buy vaccines for 20% of people in its member countries, including developing countries. It’s a positive step but not nearly enough to address global need. 9 out of 10 people in many of the world’s poorest countries won’t receive a vaccine at all this year.

Some rich countries have said they will donate some of their excess doses. This too will help – but it’s simply not fair or effective for people in poorer countries to wait indefinitely for charitable vaccine donations.

4. ‘Business as usual’ doesn’t work in a pandemic

$100 billion dollars of public money has been spent on developing Covid-19 vaccines globally. Yet pharmaceutical companies are still operating to monopolise the market, control prices, and make a profit like it's business as usual.

  • The science, technology and know-how behind the vaccines is protected by patents and intellectual property rules.
  • This allows pharmaceutical companies to block other qualified manufacturers around the world from making the vaccines.

All power rests in the hands of the pharmaceutical corporations to make secret deals to the highest bidder, and this means rich countries have been able to buy more than they need, leaving less for others. Some of the poorest countries are left having to pay higher prices than rich countries for far fewer doses than they need.”

Anna Marriott, Oxfam GB Health Policy Advisor

So how do we suppress the coronavirus?

Pharmaceutical companies and governments must increase supply

A small number of pharmaceutical companies cannot possibly produce the billions of vaccines needed around the world. We need to maximise supply, not profit. Most Covid-19 vaccines and treatments have been funded by taxpayer's money. Governments can ensure that this money is used wisely. They can insist companies share covid-19 vaccine science, know-how and technology openly.

  • Pharmaceutical companies can do this via the Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP). This was set up by World Health Organization to help share the vaccine recipes. With C-Tap, a greater number of qualified manufacturers can make them.
  • They can commit to not making a profit on Covid-19 vaccines, to keep them affordable for governments to buy and freely give to citizens.
  • The World Trade Organisation can also temporarily remove vaccine patents. But richer countries like the UK are blocking this from happening.

We should be pooling resources and knowledge instead of keeping the solutions to ending the coronavirus pandemic under lock and key.