April 25, 2020
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Will A Coronavirus Vaccine Really Be Available For Everyone, Everywhere? Heres What We Know So Far
As the UK looks ahead to its sixth week in lockdown, those leading the UK’s reaction to the deadly Coronavirus outbreak have been very clear – the only way life is going to return to normal is when a vaccine or effective treatment is found. 
Understandably, a lot of focus has been put on when, where and how a Covid-19 vaccine might be developed. 
But another strand of questioning has grown alongside this – who will be able to get the vaccine? 
On Friday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced a £6.5 billion programme to unite and speed up access to safe, affordable and universal coronavirus vaccines and medicines. 
The Access to Covid Tools Accelerator programme will be officially launched on May 4.  
“Past experience has taught us that even when tools are available, they have been not been equally available to all – but we cannot allow that to happen,” said WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. 
Meanwhile, Antonio Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations – of which WHO is an agency – said a vaccine must be sage, affordable and “available for everyone, everywhere”.
“In an interconnected world, none of us is safe until all of us is safe,” he said. “Coronavirus anywhere is a threat to all of us everywhere.”
But will this really be the case? Some people are already worried that parts of the global population could miss out even if a vaccine is developed.
Here’s what we know so far. What has the government said about an accessible coronavirus vaccine? On Friday, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said the UK would be supporting the WHO’s Accelerator programme. 
“By working together, we can develop an affordable, which is accessible to everyone who needs it as quickly as possible, so we can end this pandemic once and for all,” he said. The 🇬🇧 will host a Global Vaccines Summit on 4 June. Diseases have no borders so we must come together to make sure that @gavi is fully funded and its expertise is at the heart of efforts to secure broad access to any COVID-19 vaccine.— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) April 24, 2020Calling the Covid-19 outbreak the “biggest global threat the world has faced in a generation”, Raab said the UK was tackling the virus at home while also “galvanising international action to drive the development of, and fair access to, a vaccine”. 
The UK has already pledged £744 million to the effort, the foreign secretary said, adding: “As coronavirus has shown in our interconnected world, diseases have no borders.
“And so it’s only through coming together and collective solutions, that we will be able to defeat the virus.” 
Raab also announced on Friday that the UK would host a Global Vaccines Summit on June 4.
The world must come together to make sure that Gavi – the vaccine alliance that helps to vaccinate half of the world’s children against deadly diseases – is “fully funded and its expertise is at the heart of efforts secure broad access to any Covid-19 vaccine”, Raab said. What needs to happen to make sure a coronavirus vaccine really is ‘available for everyone’? Raab’s comments certainly make it sound like the UK government wants to help develop a vaccine that is accessible. So what do critics think needs to happen for?  
Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now – an organisation that campaigns on issues of global justice and development in the Global South – has called on the government to apply conditions to the public funding given to pharmaceutical companies. 
“A Covid-19 vaccine must be available and affordable to everyone in the world,” he said. 
“Currently pharmaceutical corporations are both demanding government support and saying they should have the right to charge what they want from any final medicines produced. It’s time for the government to say ‘no’.
“There’s no room in this crisis for big pharmaceutical corporations to profiteer from coronavirus, especially when we are ploughing millions of pounds of public money into the development of this vaccine.” 
According to Dearden, a promise by the health secretary Matt Hancock that a coronavirus drug will be made available to the British public is “not an adequate guarantee of the public interest”. 
“A vaccine could still cost the NHS a small fortune, and even worse, this is not just a British crisis,” he said. “We have a duty and an interest in ensuring that any effective vaccine must be available and accessible to everyone in the world.
“It’s time the government listened to campaigners, MPs and experts on this and applied conditions to its public funding.”
Earlier this month more than 20 organisations, including Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Global Justice Now and Oxfam, penned an open letter to the government asking them to ensure that any Covid-19 vaccines developed with UK taxpayers’ money are produced ‘patent-free’ to prevent pharmaceutical corporations profiteering from them. 
The letter called on leaders to guarantee equitable access to any new drug by imposing strict public interest conditions on all UK funding.
Although the pledges made by government on Friday have been widely welcomed, organisations have urged for clearly defined steps being taken to protect the availability of future treatments or vaccines. 
Roz Scourse, research and policy officer at MSF said: “We really strongly welcome all these commitments to the global collective effort, and a lot of really positive language was used, but now we want to see some really concrete plans about how that’s actually going to happen.
“It’s great to see that the government are stepping up and committing all this money, but it is public money and there needs to be strings attached.
“From the beginning we’ve been calling for there to be no patents attached to anything to do with this pandemic. Everything we have asked for previously still stands, because ultimately what we had yesterday were just commitments, they weren’t firm actions.”
The potential for monopolies doesn’t just mean that companies could be free to set their own prices on eventual products – it could also lead to vital research and data being hoarded and hampering progress towards a solution. 
Some nations have put forward solutions to this issue – for example, Costa Rica’s recent suggestion of a ‘patent-pool’ through which all knowledge and research becomes common property – but these ideas have not yet received widespread support. 
Scourse explained: “We’ve seen over the years how patents and monopolies have blocked access to patients, largely through making treatments and vaccines unaffordable because these companies can set their own prices.
“We need to share as much as possible to to make sure we can meet a global demand and really scale up the production of anything that looks promising so it’s accessible to everyone.
“Monopolies or patents will just make that impossible. We also need to make sure that all the research and data is being shared so different groups can build on the research that’s in progress.”
The Department of Health and Social Care have been contacted for further comment. How far along are Britain’s attempts to find a Covid-19 vaccine? On Thursday it was announced that the first people had been injected as part of vaccine trials by researchers from the University of Oxford. 
Both participants – a scientist and a cancer researcher – said they wanted to help in what could be a groundbreaking development in the fight against the disease.
Researchers from the University of Oxford administered the first dose on Thursday, while another was given a meningitis vaccine, used in the trial for comparison.
Microbiologist Elisa Granato, who took part in the trial on her 32nd birthday, said she was “excited” to support the efforts by volunteering.
She told the BBC: “Since I don’t study viruses, I felt a bit useless these days, so I felt like this is a very easy way for me to support the cause.”
Cancer researcher Edward O’Neill said: “It seems like the right thing to do to ensure that we can combat this disease and get over it a lot faster.”
Professor Sarah Gilbert, who is leading the team, said she is optimistic about the chances of success.
She said: “Personally, I’m very optimistic it’s going to work. Formally, we are testing it in an efficacy setting.
“There’s absolutely no suggestion we’re going to start using this vaccine in a wider population before we’ve demonstrated that it actually works and stops getting people infected with coronavirus.”
Up to 1,102 participants will be recruited across multiple study sites in Oxford, Southampton, London and Bristol.
She added that after receiving either the Covid-19 vaccine candidate or the meningitis jab, she would go about her normal life, keeping a diary about how she feels, or any symptoms.
The Oxford team hopes to have at least a million doses of its candidate ready in September.
Another institution hoping to have a vaccine ready for use by the end of the year is Imperial College London.
The researchers say a vaccine may be available for frontline workers and the most vulnerable by late winter, with clinical trials starting in June.Related... Coronavirus: 'Wholly Unrealistic' To Expect Life To Return To Normal Soon, Chief Medical Officer Says
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