WHO (World Health Organization) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on countries to suspend their immunization programs when they have already protected health workers and the most vulnerable and to allow the use of vaccines in the poorest countries.
According to him, the fact that the number of people vaccinated exceeded that of coronavirus cases last Wednesday is good news, but hides a great inequality.
More than three-quarters of vaccinations have taken place in just 10 countries, corresponding to 60% of global GDP, with countries like the UK and Canada ensuring doses sufficient to immunize the entire population. At the same time, more than 100 countries with 2.5 billion people have not received a dose to date, the WHO director said.
For Ghebreyesus, governments have a duty to protect their populations, but once they have vaccinated their elders and health professionals, they have to think about the rest of the world. “This is fundamental because, as long as there are a large number of people without immunity, the possibility of the virus mutating and escaping the effect of vaccines increases. And we will come back to square one. “
According to the director general of the WHO, “vaccine nationalism” could further delay the control of the pandemic, since “the coronavirus does not respect borders”. In previous estimates, the WHO estimated that this delay would cost rich countries US $ 4.5 trillion (24 trillion reais).
Ghebreyesus also urged pharmaceutical companies to share technology and intellectual property and license their vaccines more widely, in order to increase global production.
Selling the vaccines at cost, like the labs, was not enough, he said. “Companies have received significant public funding and sharing data and licenses will make a big difference in the fight against the virus.”
On Thursday (4), however, the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom, among other rich countries, blocked at the WTO (World Trade Organization) discussion of a proposal to stop the intellectual property rules of vaccines and treatments against Covid -19, manufactured by India and South Africa.
The two countries called for the temporary suspension of the TRIPS agreement (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) on the grounds that it will speed up access to vaccines for the poorest countries. According to them, pharmaceutical companies have granted production licenses to a very small number of manufacturers.
Two of these agreements already concluded are precisely with Indian and South African industries: that of AstraZeneca with the Serum Institute in India, the world’s leading vaccine manufacturer, and that of Johnson & Johnson with Aspen Pharmacare, in South Africa. countries like Cuba, Indonesia, Senegal and Thailand would also have manufacturing capacity and were excluded.
In the meeting where they blocked the discussion, the richer countries argued that this would stifle innovation in pharmaceutical companies, as it would deprive them of the incentive to make big investments in research and development.
According to them, inequalities in access to vaccines should be tackled by Covax, a global vaccine distribution mechanism, which plans to distribute 2 billion doses by the end of 2021. Ghebreyesus, however, said on Friday that one of the The positive effects of approving vaccines and treatments against Covid-19 is precisely to allow poor countries to depend less on donations.
A new round of negotiations could take place at the WTO on February 23.
The breach of the patent had already been adopted in Brazil, in 2007, to allow the use of a drug to treat AIDS patients, Efavirenz, from the American laboratory Merck Sharp & Dohme. To make the drug cheaper, the country switched to generics made in India. The threat of patent infringement had already resulted in discounts on antiretrovirals (which inhibit the spread of HIV) in 2001 and 2003.
Ghebreyesus also paid tribute to Tom Moore, a 100-year-old British Army veteran who was known to have raised the equivalent of 241 million reais from UK hospitals during charity walks. Captain Tom, as he was known, died Tuesday (2) of complications from Covid-19.
“Captain Tom showed us the value of the elderly. There is a bewildering story in some countries that the elderly can die. No. No life is inexhaustible, ”said the director of the WHO, returning to defend that the elderly and health professionals have priority in immunization.
To facilitate vaccine distribution, WHO has also called on laboratories to expedite the provision of data necessary for vaccines to be evaluated and authorized in an emergency. Inclusion in the EUL list allows institutions such as Covax and Unicef to distribute products to the poorest countries.
Another important impact, according to the person responsible for the WHO regulatory area, Mariângela Simão, is that countries without a strong regulatory structure can rely on the assessment and authorization of the institutional organization to approve the products.
Of the 14 vaccines pre-candidates for WHO authorization, 4 are in the final stages: those from Chinese Sinovac and Sinopharm, the AstraZeneca vaccine licensed to the Serum Institute and the one produced by the company itself in Korea from South. Simão said the vaccine entity received the missing data from the Korean AstraZeneca operation last week and the regulatory committee is due to meet to review them in the middle of this month.