UK orders 90 million doses of Oxford University Vaccine. What does it mean for developing nations?

The UK secured a batch of 90 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University, even before the results of the initial trials came out. Not only this, the UK has made similar deals with other companies as well. A batch of 30 million doses is to be supplied from Pfizer and BioNTech. An addition of 60 million doses from France based company Valneva are also to be supplied. If the company gets an approval for the vaccine, then 40 million more doses will be supplied.

The UK has a population of 67 million. It has around 295 thousand confirm cases of Covid-19 with nearly 45 thousand deaths. In such conditions, the bulk ordering of vaccine can lead to a scarcity for other countries, especially the poor ones.

The UK is a first world country with many resources at dispense. The order of such an essential drugs at higher prices will mean that the poor or middle income countries will not be left with enough supply.

Oxford University is developing the vaccine, officially called AZD1222, with British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca. It is currently in phase III trial of the vaccine across the world. The firm has said that it will produce two billion doses of the vaccine on a not-for-profit basis.

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The firm is set to start the human trials in India in August in collaboration with Serum Institute of India. The Serum Institute has said that it will soon start production of one billion doses of the vaccine for middle and low income countries.

The initiative has been by Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation in partnership with Gavi. The initiative will ensure that the vaccine reaches the lower income groups as well.

Vaccine Nationalism

However, it will not be possible if the ‘vaccine nationalism’ continues. Vaccine nationalism refers to bulk buying of important drugs by richer countries. The step may lead to a shortage in supply of vaccine for poor countries. It will mean that medium risk patients of richer countries will get the vaccine. And the high risk patients will be deprived of it.

AstraZeneca has said that they are working with a target of launching the vaccine by the end of 2020. The Covid-19 cases around the world are around 14 million.

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Written By Rashi, She is doing her Masters in Convergent Journalism from Jamia AJK MCRC, New Delhi.

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