Covid: Rich immunization programs to prevent developing countries

Several poor countries have asked the World Health Organization for help But rich countries are pushing back


Wealthy countries - including the UK - are blocking proposals to help developing countries expand their vaccine production capacity, documents released on BBC Newsnight show.

This means a leaked copy of the negotiation document of the WHO decision on the matter.

Among those rich countries are the UK, the US, and the European Union.

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"Where we can have a language that will make it easier for countries to produce more drugs and more drugs in their country, it will include programs that will fund and help you. Treatment, a patient group receiving appropriate medication.

A spokesman for the UK government said "the global epidemic needs a global solution and the UK is moving forward, making further efforts to ensure global equity in access to Covid drugs and treatment".

The spokesman said the UK was one of the major contributors to international efforts to ensure that more than a billion doses of coronavirus vaccine reach developing countries this year.

How and when the government should intervene to ensure that affordable medicine is a long-standing problem.

But the international community's ability to access drugs and drugs has been highlighted by the epidemic.

media captionsDrug protection: How is the vaccine approved?

Many experts say that equal access to vaccines is essential to prevent crime and death and to contribute to the safety of people worldwide.

But the global volume of drug production is about a third of what is needed, says Ellen t'Hoen, a pharmacologist and inventory law.

"These are vaccines produced in rich countries and maintained by those rich countries.

"Developing nations say we need to have a share of pie, not only the share of vaccines, but also the share of the right to produce these vaccines," he adds.

To make a vaccine you not only need to have the right to produce the original product (protected by patents), but you also need to know how to make it because the technology can be complicated.

The WHO does not have the authority to prevent patents - but it does try to unite countries to find a way to strengthen vaccines.

These negotiations include applying the provisions of international law to obtain patents and assisting countries to develop the technical capacity to act.

But the drug industry says aging patents can limit its ability to invest in future Covid and other diseases.

Earlier this month, representatives of the U.S. drug industry wrote to U.S. President Joe Biden expressing their concern.

"Eliminating those protections will undermine the world's response to this epidemic," they wrote, including ongoing efforts to address new alternatives.

It will also create confusion that could reduce public confidence in drug safety, and create a barrier to information sharing, representatives said.

"Most importantly, eliminating protection will not speed up production," they added.

Some agree. Anne Moore, an immunology specialist, is concerned about the impact that undermining patents will have on future research.

"Over time we see organizations and companies being sold fewer and fewer in the vaccine sector because there is less return," he said.

Drug companies have also offered to finance and provide anti-retroviral treatment.

But campaigners say about £ 90bn ($ 125bn) of public funds has gone into building Covid treatment and drugs for the public to participate. When the epidemic ends, there is a lot of money to be made, they say.

"Obviously there are long-term plans to increase the price of these vaccines as soon as the emergency phase of the epidemic is over. So that is one reason why developing countries say we need to gain the capacity to produce these vaccines now," Ms T'Hoen said.