Activists demand transparency on cost of Covid-19 vaccine

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transparency Activists want a clear picture of the costs Pictures: istock
transparency Activists want a clear picture of the costs Pictures: istock


On Thursday activists called on pharmaceutical companies to be transparent about the costs and terms of providing Covid-19 vaccines, saying the vaccines must be available and affordable for all.

French drug maker Sanofi and Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline said on Wednesday that they would supply 200 million doses of their Covid-19 candidate vaccine to the global Covax vaccine facility, which is backed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance – a global health partnership with the goal of increasing access to immunisation in poor countries.

Humanitarian medical organisation Doctors Without Borders demanded that the two companies provide details around price, supply and distribution of any vaccine that has proven safe and effective.

Read: South Africans still fear a Covid-19 vaccine, survey shows

“Pharmaceutical corporations Sanofi and GSK must sell their vaccines at cost and open their books to show the public exactly how much it costs to make the vaccine,” said Kate Elder, senior vaccines policy adviser at MSF’s Access Campaign.

“There is no room for secrets during a pandemic, and past experience tells us that we can’t take pharma at their word without data to back up their claims,” she said in a statement.

Sanofi and GSK could not immediately be reached for comment.

No company has shared information on research and development, clinical trials or manufacturing costs of potential Covid-19 vaccines, MSF said, adding that this was vital for the public to assess set prices.

More than half of the expected volume of doses of leading candidate vaccines has been bought up by 13% of the world, mainly high-income countries, the medical charity said.

In a separate report, research and human rights advocacy organisation Human Rights Watch said governments funding vaccines with public money should be transparent about the terms and conditions attached.

The New York-based group urged states to back a proposal by India and South Africa to wave some aspects of intellectual property (IP) rules on patents to enable large-scale manufacturing and affordability.

Read: Competition Commission gets private healthcare reform ball rolling

A temporary IP waiver was debated this month in the World Trade Organisation, but was opposed by the US, EU, Britain, Switzerland and others.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, our priority has been to ensure that all people enjoy the fruits of science ... In these difficult times the best health technologies and discoveries cannot be reserved only for a few, they must be available to all,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a Unesco event on open science on Tuesday.

“Sharing data and information that is often kept secret or protected by intellectual property could significantly advance the speed at which technologies are developed,” Tedros added. - Reuters


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