Cures Don’t Come Cheap: Vaccines Built For The Rich Don’t Protect The Poor

Even though the first treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS was approved in 1987, it took decades to become widely available in some countries.

The relationship between poverty and the pandemic spread in some parts of the world is no longer denied by anybody. No matter where a pandemic starts, the poor always tend to bear the burden of that.

The important question is, what conclusions can be drawn from this connection?

Covid-19 of which we don’t have any treatments as yet. It continues to be a disease that we really don’t understand the full manifestation.

Coming up with a vaccine to halt Covid-19 in a matter of months isn’t the only challenge. The next big test is getting billions of doses to every corner of the world at a time when countries increasingly are putting their own interests first.

The problem of unequal access to essential medicine is not a new one. Even though the first treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS was approved in 1987, it took decades to become widely available in some countries.

During the 2009 swine flu pandemic, despite the efforts by the WHO to negotiate donations for poor countries, they received vaccines slowly than rich countries as wealthy countries secured large advance orders for vaccines.

Governments choosing to prioritize their own people could lead to disruptions in global supply chains, as seen when countries started to hoard sanitizers and medical protective gear at the start of the pandemic. For instance, the USA has invested around $1bn in Moderna’s vaccine.

According to a Financial Times report, the price of some of the trial vaccines of Covid-19 could range between $3 to $30 per dose. Pfizer and BioNTech are looking to sell to the US government at $19.50 per dose.

The question is, could a price tag of $20 per dose, which translates roughly as74,110.26 Ugandan Shilling or 1,500 Indian rupees, too much to ask?

On 6th February 2001, providing a turning point in the history of AIDS therapy, Cipla (Chemical, Industrial and Pharmaceutical Laboratories) developed a revolutionary anti-HIV drug that shocked the world by offering it to poor African countries at less than a dollar a day, that was one-thirtieth of the standard price. Today, one in three people living with HIV in the world are taking a Cipla drug for treatment.

Their vision ‘None shall be denied’ comes with a goal to ensure that every patient has access to high quality, affordable medicine, and support.

Inequality itself may be acting as a multiplier on the coronavirus’s spread and deadliness. To accelerate the development of Covid-19 vaccines and ensure that everybody has the access to the vaccine, India is again responding by ensuring equitable access to vaccines and medicines.

“In an attempt to make our fight against Covid-19 stronger and all-embracing; SII has partnered with Gavi and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance the manufacturing and delivery of up to 100 million doses of future Covid vaccines for India and low and middle-income countries in 2021,” said Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India.

Dr. Renu Swarup, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, shared, “India has a proven track record of manufacturing safe and cost-effective vaccines not only for India but for the world. Over the last decade, the Government of India has encouraged innovation and supported the Indian vaccine industry to manufacture high-quality, affordable indigenous tools and products to benefit India and the world. We are very happy to see SII enter this global partnership to respond to the global health crisis posed by Covid-19.”

Dr. Balram Bhargava, Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), commented, “India’s has demonstrated consistent capability in delivering on low-cost and high-quality medical research, while also maintaining technical and scientific rigor.”

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