World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for changes to even the distribution of global vaccines in a report on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of World Health Organization/Twitter
Nov. 9 (UPI) -- Poorer countries have struggled to gain access to critical vaccines as the global vaccine market remains unequal, the World Health Organization said in a new report Wednesday.
The Global Vaccine Market Report 2022 shows that inequitable distribution is not unique to COVID-19 vaccines. The human papillomavirus vaccine against cervical cancer has been introduced in 41% of low-income countries, even though they represent much of the disease burden, compared to 83% of high-income countries, according to the report.
"The right to health includes the right to vaccines," Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said in a news release. "And yet this new report shows that free-market dynamics are depriving some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people of that right. WHO is calling for much-needed changes to the global vaccine market to save lives, prevent disease and prepare for future crises."
One reason for the inequality is the high concentration of manufacturing capacity. Ten manufacturers alone provide 70% of non-COVID-19 vaccines, while several of the top vaccines rely mainly on two suppliers, according to the report.
"This concentrated manufacturing base leads to risk of shortages, as well as regional supply insecurity," WHO said. "In 2021, the African and Eastern Mediterranean regions were dependent on manufacturers headquartered elsewhere for 90% of their procured vaccines. Entrenched intellectual property monopolies and limited technology transfer further limit the ability of building and using local manufacturing capacity."
The report calls on governments to enact clear immunization plans and more aggressive investment and stronger oversight of vaccine development.
"COVID-19 proved that vaccines can be developed and distributed rapidly, with a process lasting an average of 10 years but never less than four years, compressed to 11 months," the report said. "The pandemic also exposed the longstanding need to recognize vaccines as a fundamental and cost-effective public good rather than a commodity."