SOCIETAL, LEGAL AND ETHICAL CHALLENGES AROUND ACCESS TO COVID-19 VACCINES
As science moves closer to the timely arrival of an effective vaccine against the COVID-19 virus, attention is shifting to the critical issue of access: who supplies it, who gets it, when, and under what conditions. The human and financial toll of the worst public health crisis in a century has exposed major gaps in the existing global infrastructure for fighting serious outbreaks of disease. In fact, there is no agreed international system of governance to ensure the allocation of a pandemic vaccine fairly and consistently across countries.
Already, wealthy countries representing less than 15% of the world’s population have been able to secure almost all of the 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines promised by biopharmaceutical manufacturers with vaccine candidates in development. Such “vaccine nationalism” has also led to a lack of clarity in individual company negotiations on vaccine pricing, a situation accentuated by the health emergency and its compressed timelines on vaccines rollout, leaving little room for reliance on competition and other normal market signals. In addition, decisions by some vaccine developers to outsource manufacturing to others makes it harder to assess accountability for decisions on access.
Each of these trends raise this single fundamental question: how do you “triage the world” when something as critical as a life-saving COVID-19 vaccine is in limited supply and logistically difficult to distribute to all those in need?
The panel will review the full range of social, legal and ethical challenges to access around COVID-19 vaccines. It will include a detailed examination of progress being made by key multilateral players like the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Initiatives (CEPI) in brokering deals with industry on tiered cost-bearing strategies to benefit more people in low- and middle-income nations.