This week, more than 140 world leaders and public health experts penned an open letter calling for universal access to a COVID-19 vaccine. They’re asking governments to rally around a “global guarantee” that would give everyone free treatments, diagnostics and technologies relating to the novel coronavirus. These resources would be produced quickly at scale.
“Now is not the time to allow the interests of the wealthiest corporations and governments to be placed before the universal need to save lives, or to leave this massive and moral task to market forces,” they write.
Pharmaceutical companies are now racing to be the first to produce a vaccine. This raises issues of accessibility to future COVID-19 treatments. Earlier this week, Paris-based Sanofi announced that if it discovers a vaccine first, the United States would be first in line to receive it. The French government was upset with that announcement.
Ninety companies worldwide are trying to create and market the first COVID-19 vaccine, which might lead to some missteps. That’s according to Dr. Michael Wilkes, a professor of medicine and global health at UC Davis.
“There's already this sort of kindergarten equivalent of pushing and shoving and name calling in the competition. Vaccines mix public health needs with this international competition to be first, which brings with it sort of this human desire for power and prestige, and let's not forget profit,” he says on today’s Daily Dose.
Once a vaccine is developed, money will play a big role in who receives treatment, Wilkes says.
“Those who are insured or can pay for it will certainly get it, and those who are uninsured and can't pay will have far more limited access,” he says.
Poorer countries will be at a disadvantage too, he says. “Rich countries will have access to COVID vaccines. Poor countries will have to wait and wait and wait for various international approvals and for shipping, and [then finally] have limited access.”