As the world continues the fight against the covid-19 pandemic, vaccine inequality has become a serious issue of contention. According to Our World In Data, only 9.5% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.
One of the stumbling blocks to equitable vaccine access is that patents are held by a handful of companies. The four major vaccines AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer, hold the majority of the vaccine market.
Hoarding of vaccines by richer countries. The Financial Times reports that “the rate at which booster doses in high-income countries have been administered exceeds that of total doses in low-income countries.”
There is some good news. A new patent-free vaccine could be the solution to bridge the gap between low and high-income countries.
Researchers from the Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine have developed a new vaccine that can be manufactured around the world.
According to researchers, the new vaccine, called CORBEVAX was created using research from “a traditional recombinant protein-based technology,” which makes it easier to produce compared to the new covid vaccines.
CORBEVAX has already been approved for use in India, with more countries expected to follow.
Earlier this year, a new vaccine manufacturing campus opened in Cape Town led by South African ex-pat and billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong. Soon-Shiong is the founder of multinational conglomerate Nantworks and has committed three billion rands to start the facility and one billion rands in donations.
Speaking at the launch of the new campus, President Cyril Ramaphosa said it was important for low-income countries to be able to produce their own vaccines in the face of major pandemics.
“As the African Union Champion on COVID-19, South Africa supports vaccine manufacturing in Africa to ensure self-sufficiency of the continent. Africa should no longer be last in line to access vaccines against pandemics,” he said.
As the world grapples with Omicron, the newest Covid-19 virus variant, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has cautioned against continuing vaccine inequality.
“The fastest way to end the pandemic is to ensure vaccines are available to everyone, everywhere. But, right now, only a few countries have widespread access to vaccines, which means the virus will continue to mutate, cross borders, and wreak havoc for everyone around the world,” it warned.