We look at the urgent push to ensure equal access to COVID-19 vaccines for all nations, rich and poor, and growing calls for Big Pharma to waive their patent rights, as COVID-19 cases soar in India and the Modi government has suspended exports of coronavirus vaccines to many of the world’s poorest countries that depend on AstraZeneca vaccines it produces. “These are not India’s vaccines,” says Achal Prabhala, coordinator of the AccessIBSA project, which campaigns for equitable access to medicines. “The number of vaccine doses that have gone out to a third of humanity — 91 poor countries — is 18 million doses, or just enough to cover about 1% of the populations of these countries if they’ve even got vaccines, which some have not,” Prabhala notes. Leena Menghaney, an Indian lawyer who heads Médecins Sans Frontières’s access campaign in India, links the supply shortage to Oxford University’s decision to sign an exclusive deal with the Serum Institute in India rather than contracting several manufacturers to produce the vaccine. “The monopoly is going to cost us,” Menghaney says.
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