Six companies at the helm of the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out are fuelling an unprecedented human rights crisis through their refusal to waive intellectual property rights and share vaccine technology, with most failing to prioritise vaccine deliveries to poorer countries, Amnesty International said today.
In a new report, A Double Dose of Inequality: Pharma companies and the Covid-19 vaccines crisis, the organization assessed six of the companies that hold the fate of billions of people in their hands: AstraZeneca plc, BioNTech SE, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Inc., Novavax, Inc. and Pfizer, Inc. It paints a dismal picture of an industry that is woefully failing to respect human rights.
“Vaccinating the world is our only pathway out of this crisis. It should be time to hail these companies, who created vaccines so quickly, as heroes. But instead, to their shame and our collective grief, Big Pharma’s intentional blocking of knowledge transfer and their wheeling and dealing in favor of wealthy states has brewed an utterly predictable and utterly devastating vaccine scarcity for so many others” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
“Its plunging parts of Latin America, Africa and Asia into renewed crises, pushing weakened health systems to the very brink and causing tens of thousands of preventable deaths every week. In many low-income countries not even health workers and people at-risk have received the vaccine.”
“Against the backdrop of these gross inequalities BioNTech, Moderna and Pfizer are set to make US$130 billion combined by the end of 2022. Profits should never come before lives.”
Failing to meet human rights responsibilities
In order to assess their response to the crisis, Amnesty International reviewed each company’s human rights policy, vaccine pricing structure, their records on intellectual property, knowledge and technology sharing, the fair allocation of available vaccine doses, and transparency. It found that to differing degrees, the six vaccine developers had failed to meet their human rights responsibilities.
Out of 5.76 billion doses administered worldwide, a paltry 0.3% have gone to low-income countries with over 79% going to upper-middle and high-income countries. Despite calls to prioritise and collaborate with COVAX Facility, the international instrument aiming to ensure a fair global vaccine allocation, some of the assessed companies have continued to stock up vaccine supplies for states known to be hoarding the vaccine.