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Australia has delivered just 8% of Covid vaccinations promised to developing nations

·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Leon Lord/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Leon Lord/AFP/Getty Images

Just 8% of the 60m Covid-19 vaccinations the Australian government pledged to developing countries in the region have been delivered.

Australia has committed to supplying 40m doses from its own stockpile and 20m doses to be procured through a new partnership with Unicef to countries in south-east Asia and the Pacific by the end of 2022.

But less than 5m doses of the 40m committed from the Australian stockpile have been supplied to developing nations as the nation’s vaccination rollout exceeds 70% first-dose targets. None of the further 20m doses have been delivered, expected to be rolled out “in the coming months”, a spokesperson from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.

A recently released report by the People’s Vaccine Alliance found pharmaceutical companies and wealthy nations had delivered just one in seven of the vaccination doses promised to developing countries through the global vaccine-sharing Covax initiative.

Related: New report urges Australia to help ‘vaccinate the world’ by donating 20m extra Covid jab doses

Some 12% of doses promised by western pharmaceutical companies had been supplied to Covax, the initiative designed to help low and middle-income countries get fair access to Covid vaccines.

Of the 1.8bn Covid vaccine donations promised by rich nations, some 261m doses had been delivered. Australia had committed $130m to Covax, of which $44m had so far been dispersed.

Covax had delivered 86m doses from the stockpile to the Pacific and south-east Asia, funded, in part, by Australia.

The Oxfam Australia CEO, Lyn Morgain, said it was a “deeply distressing figure” at the same time 70% and 80% vaccination targets were being met across states and territories.

“It’s devastating … we know among the world’s poorest, as few as 1% of the population has been vaccinated,” she said.

“This is not on face a complex or challenging problem. It’s a problem of policy failure. Globally, we must decentralise manufacturing – share technology, share patents, facilitate decentralised access.

“The pandemic … has set back developing countries decades … vaccination is a key intervention. When we are able to reconsider travel, we will return to a grossly more inequitable world.”

This month, Australia confirmed it would suspend the production of the AstraZeneca vaccine once the agreed 50m doses had been manufactured, with all extra doses to be delivered to the region.

Two months earlier, the commonwealth came under fire for purchasing 500,000 doses of Pfizer from the Covax stockpile.

Morgain said the EU and leading pharmaceutical companies’ refusal to support waiving patents on vaccines and Covid-related technologies had been a significant disruptor to the vaccination rollout in developing countries.

Related: Australia’s Pfizer purchase from vaccine-sharing Covax stockpile under fire

“The failure of rich country donations and the failure of Covax have the same root cause – we have given over control of vaccine supply to a small number of pharmaceutical companies, who are prioritising their own profits,” she said.

“These companies aren’t producing enough to vaccinate the world, they are artificially constraining the supply, and they will always put their rich customers at the front of the line.

“The only way to end the pandemic is to share the technology and knowhow with other qualified manufacturers so that everyone, everywhere can have access to these lifesaving vaccines.”

The US president, Joe Biden, rallied support to vaccinate 70% of the global population by September 2022 during the UN general assembly in September.

The World Health Organization said it would be a global priority to vaccinate 40% of the population of all countries by the end of 2021 and 70% by mid-2022 under recently revised vaccination targets.

Just under 50% of the global population had received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. But among people in low-income countries, the figure was less than 3%.

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The UNAIDS chief director, Winnie Byanyima, said the developing world could not rely on the “charity of rich nations and pharmaceutical companies”.

“Rich nations and corporations are shamefully failing to deliver on their promises while blocking the actual solution; ensuring developing nations have the ability to make their own vaccines,” she said.

“Hundreds of thousands of people are dying from Covid-19 as a result. This is beyond appalling.”

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