AS the world faces a Covid-19 vaccine apartheid amid privatisation and monopolisation of its science and technology as well as the doses, and hoarding by rich countries, China has rescued Zimbabwe by supplying over 11 million shots – not for free, but at a cost of over US$93 million.
This comes as big Western suppliers such Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca have allocated more than 90% of their supplies to rich countries.
With Zimbabwe, just like other developing countries, struggling financially to join and jump the expensive Western vaccine queues, China has provided a welcome relief.
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said yesterday during a mid-term fiscal policy review statement presentation, to date Zimbabwe has spent US$93.2 million on procurement of 11.8 million doses and 7.2 million syringes almost exclusively from China.
So far there have been deliveries of 5.5 million doses and 5.2 million syringes.
Of the 11.8 million doses Zimbabwe has secured, 11.7 million of those shots are from China: Sinovac (6.2 million doses); Sinopharm (five million) and Sinopharm (500 000, donation from China).
There is also Covaxine (35 000, donation from India); and Sputnik V (50 000, donation from Russia).
The country got 1.2 million of the syringes from China Pharmaceutical Foreign Trade Corporation, three million from Sinopharm and one million from Sinovac.
“The country has embarked on a mass vaccination campaign as a long-term solution to save lives and livelihoods,” Ncube said.
“The objective is to target herd immunity of 60% of the country’s population with 100 million having been set aside for the purpose. Progress towards the desired 60% (herd immunity) will require mobilisation of additional resources for the procurement of more vaccines, China rescues Zim on Covid-19 as world faces vaccine apartheid over and above the US$100 million resource envelope.”
Zimbabwe, in dire straits and isolated from the West, would have struggled to get Western vaccines.
American pharmaceutical giants Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are charging governments as much as US$41 billion above the estimated cost of production, according to a new research released yesterday by the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a global vaccine advocacy group.
Pfizer/BioNTech is a joint venture between American pharmaceutical and biotechnology multinational, Pfizer, and its German counterpart, BioNTech. Moderna is American.
The advocacy group says South Africa may have overpaid Pfizer/BioNTech US$177 million, a figure Zimbabwe could ill-afford.
Colombia may have overpaid Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech as much as US$375 million for just 20 million doses.
Over-priced vaccines matter for strained public budgets in rich countries too. The United Kingdom and United States could have paid Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna US$1.8 billion and US$17.4 billion respectively more than the estimated production cost of these mRNA vaccines, while for Germany the figure could be €5.8 billion.
The EU could have paid €31 billion more than the estimated cost for the mRNA vaccines, equivalent to 19% of the total EU 2021 budget.
Government budgets that could be paying for more health workers or used to tackle hunger are instead creating extreme wealth.
Since the start of the pandemic, Moderna, BioNTech and CanSino, a Chinese company, have created at least nine new vaccine billionaires with a combined net wealth of US$19.3 billion.
While the Covid-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc around the world with a devastating impact on people’s lives and economies, it has – just like any other crisis – created an opportunity for some and produced at least nine billionaires in this case.
Topping new billionaires are Moderna chief executive Stéphane Bancel and Ugur Sahin, the boss of BioNTech, which has produced a vaccine with Pfizer. Both are now worth around US$4 billion, the lobby group’s analysis shows.
Senior executives from China’s CanSino Biologics and early investors in Moderna have also become billionaires on paper as shares skyrocketed. The analysis was compiled using data from the Forbes Rich List.
Activists say the wealth generation highlighted the stark inequality that has resulted from the pandemic.
The nine new billionaires are worth a combined US$19.3 billion, enough to fully vaccinate some 780 million people in low-income countries such as Zimbabwe, the campaigners say.
“These billionaires are the human face of the huge profits many pharmaceutical corporations are making from the monopoly they hold on these vaccines,” Anne Marriott, Oxfam’s health policy manager, said recently.
“These vaccines were funded by public money and should be first and foremost a global public good, not a private profit opportunity.”
Covid-19 has infected nearly 200 million and killed over four million globally.
As of yesterday, Zimbabwe had recorded 105 656 cases and 3 425 deaths; 81 of them in the past 24 hours.
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