Last week, WHO informed us that deaths from COVID-19 in Africa increased by 80% over the previous month. Much of this increase is being driven by the highly-transmissible Delta variant, WHO has said.
That is the reality the world is grappling with right now. This coexists with another reality, that vaccines work and that rich countries are letting doses expire. How many lives could have been saved if only vaccines were distributed taking into account epidemiological urgency and vulnerabilities. The IMF says: “less than 5% of doses that were pre-purchased by or for low-income countries have been delivered”.
Keep in mind that, on current trends nearly 70% of African countries will not reach the 10% vaccination target by the end of September, according to WHO. “Around 3.5 million to four million doses are administered weekly on the continent but to meet the September target this must rise to 21 million doses at the very least each week. Many African countries have prepared well to roll out vaccines but the vaccines have not arrived,” WHO has said.
This grave injustice will no doubt haunt us for all time to come. But week after week, month after month, influential leaders and actors have actively contributed to perpetuating these injustices. And there is no end in sight.
Here is our exclusive from Friday that brings together the different elements at the WTO General Council Meeting that took place last week: The Writing on the Wall? The EU Seeks to Steer Talks Away from the TRIPS Waiver Proposal.
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In August, we will have lighter editions to reflect on our operations and fine-tune our publications strategy. However, as always, we are keeping a close watch on global health developments in Geneva and will continue to bring our weekly primers to you over the next few weeks.
During this period I will also chart out stories and projects that will arrive in the fall which need more planning and preparation. In addition, I take this opportunity to spend some time with my family.
We trust that our readers will indulge us with some spare time now to regather for a hectic season in the months ahead.
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I. POLICY UPDATES
WHO announced that in response to the delta surge the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator has launched the Rapid ACT-Accelerator Delta Response or RADR. This is an urgent call for US$7.7 billion for tests, treatments and vaccines, DG Tedros said last week.
It is not clear yet, how this will be different from the overall ACT A financing strategy.
WHO: New consortium working to boost vaccine production in South Africa: MPP, WHO, AFRIGEN, BIOVAC, SAMRC, and Africa CDC sign a letter of intent towards establishing the tech transfer hub in South Africa
“The Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) and the World Health Organization (WHO), Afrigen Biologics (PTY) Limited, the Biologicals and Vaccines Institute of Southern Africa (Biovac), the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) have signed a letter of intent to address the global imbalance of manufacturing capacity for COVID-19 vaccines.”
The letter of intent sets out the terms of the collaboration and responsibilities between these organisations. It spells out responsibilities for all actors involved.
Some very specific conditions on IP matters and conditions for confidentiality.
Like others, we are keen on learning more about the companies that would share technology with the tech transfer hub.
Also see related: Africa wants to produce a coronavirus vaccine — and Big Pharma’s not happy via Politico
“Its [mRNA technology] promise goes beyond coronavirus and holds the potential for applications related to cancer, Ebola or HIV. But it’s exactly this potential that makes pharmaceutical companies all the more keen to cling to their newly minted technology even more tightly.
And therein lies the rub: To get the hub up and running in a year — when it could still help end the pandemic — its partners need Big Pharma’s help. And Big Pharma isn’t keen: Neither Moderna nor Pfizer has signaled interest in working with the facility.”
…“Petro Terblanche, managing director of Afrigen, also sees the terms being decided on a “case by case basis,” adding: “It’s in none of our interests to infringe. This will be done in agreement.”
“The choice of South Africa was also deliberate. “The due diligence, which was conducted by both by the Medicines Patent Pool and by WHO, indicates at this moment that there is no IP barrier in South Africa for the production of mRNA vaccines,” Kieny said. That means that there is currently no patent application for an mRNA vaccine in the country, even though a patent application could still emerge, she added.”
….“Thomas Cueni, director general of international pharma lobby IFPMA, said the debate needs to “be honest in expectation management.” While he said industry shares the objective of ensuring global equitable access, "you need to be pragmatic in terms of accepting that companies are not going for total sellout" and engage in tech transfer and voluntary licensing.”
The Task Force comprises the International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group, World Health Organization, and World Trade Organization
II. WHAT WE FOUND INTERESTING
My colleague Rithika has pulled this together for you:
Where a Vast Global Vaccination Program Went Wrong: New York Times
Explosive story from the NYT.
“…More supplies are finally on the way, courtesy of the Biden administration, which is buying 500 million Pfizer doses and delivering them through Covax, the centerpiece of a larger pledge by wealthy democracies. The donated doses should begin shipping this month.
But the Biden donation, worth $3.5 billion, comes with a caveat: To help fund it, the administration is diverting hundreds of millions of dollars promised for vaccination drives in poorer countries, according to notes from a meeting between Covax and American officials. Short on funding, those countries have had a hard time buying fuel to transport doses to clinics, training people to administer shots or persuading people to get them.”
…. “By this May, Covax appeared poised to strike a new deal of its own to buy low-cost doses from Pfizer. It had already ordered 40 million in January; this deal was expected to be bigger.
“But behind the scenes, tension was simmering between Pfizer and Covax, two people familiar with the negotiations said. The company wanted the new doses to go to poorer nations alone. As a global purchasing pool, Covax insisted on also fulfilling orders from wealthier countries that had been buying directly at higher prices. South Korea, for example, had received Pfizer doses from the program.
And the two sides had already tangled. In negotiations over the first round of doses, Pfizer had sought liability protections beyond Covax’s model indemnification agreement, Dr. Berkley said, asking countries to sign additional legal letters.” "
New York Times
Pfizer and Moderna raise EU Covid vaccine prices: Financial Times
“The terms of the deals, struck this year for a total of up to 2.1bn shots until 2023, were renegotiated after phase 3 trial data showed their messenger ribonucleic acid vaccines had higher efficacy rates than cheaper shots developed by Oxford/AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
The new price for a Pfizer shot was €19.50 against €15.50 previously, according to portions of the contracts seen by the Financial Times.
The price of a Moderna jab was $25.50 a dose, the contracts show, up from what people familiar with the matter said was about €19 ($22.60) in the first procurement deal but lower than a previously agreed $28.50 because the order had grown, according to one official close to the negotiations.
The official said the companies had capitalised on their market power and deployed the “usual pharma rhetoric . . . Vaccines work so they increased the ‘value’.”
Big Pharma Quietly Pushes Back on Global Tax Deal, Citing Covid-19 Role: The Wall Street Journal
“An internal analysis from the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that if the 11 rich countries that are either rolling out boosters or considering it this year were to give the shots to everyone over 50 years old, they would use up roughly 440 million doses of the global supply. If all high-income and upper-middle-income nations were to do the same, the estimate doubles.”
The EU’s vaccine failures will leave a toxic legacy: The Telegraph
AstraZeneca Loses Money on Covid-19 Vaccine for Second Straight Quarter: The Wall Street Journal
Then the Birds Began to Die: The Atlantic
FROM THE JOURNALS/REPORTS
Three New Estimates of India’s All Cause Excess Mortality during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Center for Global Development
III. TWEET OF THE WEEK
Geoffrey York, a Johannesburg journalist draws our attention to Moderna’s profit margin on its COVID-19 vaccine
IV. PODCAST CORNER
Pulse Podcast via Hindu BusinessLine - Privatisation of science has a grave impact on lives: Leena Menghaney, MSF
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