Published Tuesday, November 24, 2020
Equal access to covid-19 vaccines, says WHO
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff and wire services
The World Health Organization, WHO, called on the international community to put the same effort into fairly distributing coronavirus vaccines, which appear to be on the verge of approval, as they did in creating them.
At the WHO’s regular news briefing in Geneva, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus lauded the recent development of the vaccines, including the Pfizer-BioNTech inoculation being considered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and European regulators. He noted the significance of the scientific achievement cannot be overstated.
He said, “No vaccines in history have been developed as rapidly as these. The scientific community has set a new standard for vaccine development.” But he said the international community must set a new standard for access to these new vaccines and ensure they are available to the poorest nations in the world.
Tedros also said, “The urgency with which COVID-19 vaccines have been developed must be matched by the same urgency to distribute them fairly.” The COVID-19 disease is caused by the coronavirus.
The WHO director-general expressed concern that the poorest and most vulnerable nations will “be trampled in the stampede for vaccines.”
According to Voice of America Journal report, earlier this year, the agency, in collaboration with other organizations, developed the Access to covid-19 Tools (ACT) accelerator program and the Cooperative Vaccine Development Group, known as COVAX, specifically to ensure any viable vaccines are made equitably available throughout the world. Tedros says 187 nations are now participating.
But he said $4.3 billion is needed immediately to support the mass procurement & delivery of covid-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments, and another $23.8 billion will be needed next year.
The director-general said the programs are a good investment for the world’s strongest economies. He cited an International Monetary Fund Report that said if medical solutions to the pandemic are quickly made widely available, it could increase income globally by $9 trillion in the next five years.
Tedros said contributing to the effort is not charity; it is the fastest way to end the pandemic and drive the global economic recover.
"The real question is not whether the world can afford to share covid-19 vaccines and other tools; it’s whether it can afford not to," he said.
In Costa Rica, the government signed an agreement with the British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca for purchasing one million doses of its candidate vaccine against covid-19, AZD1222, which is being developed together with the University of Oxford in England.
According to the government, each dose will be priced at $4, so the estimated price of this purchase is at least $4 million, without including additional distribution costs. Vaccine purchases would be made with funds from the National Emergency Fund that is being used to face the crisis caused by the pandemic.
One million doses will cover half a million people because of two applications, which is the recommended requirement for each person. It is estimated that the vaccine will be available beginning the first quarter of 2021, as long as the ongoing clinical trials are successful and the vaccine is approved by international regulatory organizations.
In October, authorities of the Ministry of Health announced the Pfizer and BioNTech agreement for the purchase of 3 million doses of BNT162b2 vaccine against covid-19.
According to the ministry, this vaccine is mRNA-based, patented by BioNTech and endorsed by Pfizer, and it will be produced after proving success from clinical studies and regulations.
The cost of these purchased vaccines has not been disclosed due to the commercial confidentiality agreement required by the companies, the government said. The National Emergency Fund is paying for the vaccines, with an estimate of receiving the treatment gradually in the first quarter of 2021. This depends on the clinical success demonstrated in these treatments.
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