As announced Friday during the G20 summit, drugmakers Pfizer and BioNTech will send 1 billion doses of their COVID vaccine to low-income countries this year and another 1 billion in 2022. The vaccines will be delivered free of charge to the poorest countries and sold at a reduced rate to nations defined as “middle-income.”
Johnson & Johnson promised to send 200 million doses of its vaccine to COVAX, a UN-backed initiative that strives for equitable access to vaccines. The pledge was great news for COVAX, which recently lost its largest supplier due to the worsening crisis in India.
To further assist developing nations, the EU has agreed to build at least 3 vaccination manufacturing facilities in Africa and donate 100 million doses to low-income nations by the end of 2021.
As reported by the New York Times, less than 0.5% of all COVID vaccines have gone to low-income countries.
“As we prepare for the next pandemic, our priority must be to ensure that we all overcome the current one together. We must vaccinate the world, and do it fast,” said Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi during the virtual summit.
Friday’s event was the first major summit focused on overcoming the coronavirus pandemic – which has killed millions – and preparing for future disasters. The commitments from Pfizer, BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson are expected to mitigate the push from low-income nations to waive patent protections for COVID vaccines.
The proposal to remove patent protections, backed by President Joe Biden, would likely result in botched production, supply shortages, and less medical innovation by drugmakers.