September 18, 2021

Coronavirus live news: UK regulator approves Moderna for over-12s; weekly deaths up by a third in England and Wales

Vaccine commission now to consider recommending it; Singapore experts say there may be hundreds of...

Vaccine commission now to consider recommending it; Singapore experts say there may be hundreds of deaths each year from endemic Covid-19

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  • NSW Covid update: vaccination blitz targets south-west Sydney under-40s as state reports 452 new cases

4.00pm BST

Spain has announced receiving €9bn in its first tranche of recoversy funds from the EU’s coronavirus fund.

Spain along with Italy will receive the lion’s share of the €750bn earmarked by Brussels to relaunch Europe’s economies that have been devastated by their attempts to control Covid.

3.43pm BST

The pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has been criticised for a reportedly unusual stipulation in its vaccine contract with South Africa that required the country to waive its right to impose export restrictions on vaccine doses.

The New York Times reports that while many western countries prevented domestically manufactured doses from leaving their borders, South Africa – which has been in need of vaccine doses – was required to agree to the demand in exchange for a relatively small supply of vaccines. The measure has been described as a “colonialist extraction”.

J&J is holding South Africa and Africa to ransom, forcibly exporting doses filled and finished here, while our people die by the thousands. It’s horrifying to see that our government was seemingly forced to sign up to this kind of exploitation in return for 32m vaccines here, because this also affects the timely supply of at least 200m vaccine doses for Africa from Aspen [a South African pharmaceutical company], which J&J clearly fully controls – this much-touted license gives Aspen no supply control whatsoever.

Aspen is also the only supplier for Africa – this is nonsensical and dangerous in a pandemic. It is time that all secret vaccine contracts with vaccine manufacturers and distributors are published and reviewed – we have a right to know what has been agreed in our name. In our view, J&J are complicit in vaccine apartheid, diverting doses from those who really need them to the wealthiest countries on earth. It’s colonialist extraction, plain and simple.

While South Africa was experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises to arise from Covid-19, J&J diverted desperately needed vaccines to wealthy countries. It’s utterly abhorrent and shows a total disregard for African life. This is further proof that the world cannot trust a handful of pharmaceutical companies to fairly allocate vaccines across the world. Pharma executives seem all too happy to write off African deaths to line their own pockets.

Without urgent action, more of these tragedies could be around the corner. It is time for governments to break pharmaceutical companies’ monopolies on knowledge and technology of vaccines and other tools to deal with Covid-19. We should develop domestic manufacturing in low-and-middle-income countries, not siphon off doses to the rich world.

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