Amnesty International is accusing the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies of creating an “unprecedented human rights crisis” by failing to provide enough COVID-19 vaccines for the world’s poorest nations.
In a report issued Wednesday, the human rights advocacy group says AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Novavax and the partnership of Pfizer and BioNTech have “failed to meet their human rights responsibilities” by refusing to participate in global vaccine sharing initiatives and share vaccine technology by waiving their intellectual property rights.
Amnesty says only a “paltry” 0.3% of the 5.76 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines distributed around the world have gone to low-income countries, while 79% have gone to upper-middle and high-income countries. It says the disparity is “pushing weakened health systems to the very brink and causing tens of thousands of preventable deaths every week,” especially in parts of Latin America, Africa and Asia.
The organization says Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna alone are set to make $130 billion combined by the end of 2022.
“Profits should never come before lives,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general.
Amnesty is calling on governments and pharmaceutical companies to immediately deliver 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to low and lower-middle income countries to meet the World Health Organization’s goal of vaccinating 40% of the population of such countries by the end of the year.
The report was issued ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden’s virtual COVID Summit, held in conjunction with this week’s United Nations General Assembly. Biden is expected to announce a global vaccination target of 70% along with an additional purchase of 500 million doses of the two-shot Pfizer vaccine, bringing the United States’ overall donations to more than 1.1 billion doses.
“America is committed to beating COVID-19. Today, the United States is doubling our total number of global donated vaccines to more than 1.1 billion. For every shot we’ve put in an American arm to date, we are donating three shots globally,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday on Twitter.
The Asian Development Bank says the pandemic likely pushed as many as 80 million people in Asia’s developing nations into extreme poverty last year. A report issued Tuesday by the Manila-based institution said the region’s developing economies will likely grow at a slower-than-expected pace in 2021 due to lingering COVID-19 outbreaks and the slow pace of vaccination efforts
The ADB is predicting Southeast Asian economies to grow by just 3.1 percent this year, a drop from the 4.4 percent rate forecast in its economic outlook back in April.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France Presse (AFP).