Tuesday 29 September 2020 / 5:42 PM International Development / Preet Gill

Labour calls on UK Government to guarantee equitable access to vaccines

The Global Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) board are meeting on the 29-30 of September to discuss equitable access to vaccines.

The Gavi board will be discussing the COVAX facility, which includes covering topics related to funding arrangements, financial operating model and financial risk exposure, governance, advance market commitment (AMC) and Covid-19 vaccine delivery in AMC countries.

Preet Kaur Gill, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development has written to the Foreign Secretary setting out the measures and position the UK should adopt in its discussions with regards to the Covid-19 vaccine delivery. In the letter she stresses, there are “flaws in the design of the COVAX Facility that must be addressed if it is to guarantee equitable access.”

She further reminds the Government that the “UK taxpayers deserve to know that the money being spent on their behalf is guaranteed to bring about genuinely equitable access across the world” and that “We will not be safe from Covid-19 until everyone is safe.”

As part of detailed actions from the UK Government, Preet has asked for fairer vaccine pricing and reasonable co-financing requirements from lower middle income countries, transparency of the COVAX facility and the sharing of tech and intellectual property to ensure the faster development and distribution of the vaccine.

Ends

Notes to Editors:

  • The COVAX Facility was launched in April and is a platform that will support the research, development and manufacturing of a wide range of COVID-19 vaccine candidates, and negotiate their pricing.
  • On the 18th of September the UK joined the COVAX Facility.
  • The full text of the letter reads:

Dear Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP,

Labour welcomes the announcement that the UK would be joining the COVAX Facility and supports the UK’s ambitions to support global equitable allocation.

However, I am disappointed that I received no response to the last letter I sent to the Government on this issue on 28/07/2020 which outlined flaws in the design of the COVAX Facility that must be addressed if it is to guarantee equitable access.

With the Gavi Board Meeting this week, I am writing again to urge the UK Government to leverage its position as a Gavi board member to ensure that the Gavi COVAX Facility and Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) are set up to deliver equitable access to future Covid-19 technologies with no unnecessary delay.

UK taxpayers deserve to know that the money being spent on their behalf is guaranteed to bring about genuinely equitable access across the world to make us safer as soon as possible. Faced with an unprecedented global pandemic continuing with “business as usual” will leave us all at greater risk.

The increase in bilateral deals and reservations for vaccines risks extending the pandemic and leading to the preventable deaths of many more people. The world’s richest countries, making up 13% of the global population, have bought more than half of the promised doses of leading Covid-19 vaccine candidates. Recent research by the Northeastern University’s Mobs Lab found that around twice as many people will die if rich nations hoard a vaccine and the disease continues to spread and infect people for months longer in the vast majority of the world than if a vaccine was distributed equitably.

To end the pandemic as quickly as possible, the UK must ensure that the COVAX Facility has adequate doses to vaccinate priority groups in participating countries and countries are prevented from hoarding doses.

The UK Government is well placed on the Gavi board to ensure that its design for the COVAX Facility is equitable, effective and genuinely global in scope. That is why I am calling on you to take the following actions:

Guarantee transparency of the COVAX Facility: In order to guarantee a fair price for countries participating in the AMC, Gavi must require that any agreement with pharmaceutical companies requires transparency on all their development and production costs, and this should be made public. Will you ensure that every deal agreed as part of the COVAX Facility is published in full, and Gavi requires that any agreement mandates transparency around all costs of development and production?

Vaccine pricing: The current plans for the COVAX Facility accommodate pharmaceutical companies to follow a tiered pricing approach. This provides the opportunity for companies to profit from this global health crisis. Companies like AstraZeneca have already committed to not making a profit from a Covid-19 vaccine during the pandemic so what steps will you be taking to ensure that companies the COVAX Facility buys from follow suit and make the vaccines available at a fair price?

Fair co-financing requirements: The success of the COVAX Facility’s AMC depends on the ability of low and lower middle-income countries (LMIC) to afford co-payment. I am concerned that the current proposed price for AMC countries may require Governments to redirect money that is usually reserved for routine immunisations to meet their obligations which would have severe knock-on effects.

While the UK’s funding commitment to support the facility is welcome, a considerable funding shortfall remains and it is the most vulnerable living in the poorest countries who will be punished if this is not met. Will you advocate for other donors to pledge funding to the AMC? and will you push for the financing arrangements to be realistic and flexible to take into account the economic impact of the pandemic?

Support tech-transfer and make intellectual property work for public health: For the delivery of a vaccine as quickly as possible we should be sharing technologies, know-how and data in such a way that allows us to deliver and upscale manufacturing of a vaccine. Will you ensure that for the COVAX Facility Gavi states its support for sharing this knowledge to overcome the pandemic without delay?

We will not be safe from Covid-19 until everyone is safe.

The United Kingdom has already supported calls for the vaccine to be a global public good, affordable for all countries and the universal, timely and equitable access to and fair distribution of all quality, safe, efficacious and affordable essential health technologies related to the virus.

The Gavi Board Meeting is an opportunity to put these calls into action. You must act to guarantee genuine global cooperation to mass manufacture and mass distribute vaccines to those who need it as quickly as possible

Yours Sincerely,

Preet Kaur Gill