Pandemic of greed: a wake-up call for vaccine equity at a grim stage

The death toll from COVID-19 is four times higher in low-income countries than in rich countries

3 million people have died since the emergence of the Omicron variant, shattering the perception that the pandemic is over

The death toll from COVID-19 has been four times higher in low-income countries than in wealthy countries, according to a new report released today by Oxfam on behalf of the People’s Vaccine Alliance as the world marks two years since the World Health Organization declared the pandemic.

While the pandemic has been devastating for wealthy countries like the US and UK, the world’s poorest countries have been hit hardest, with women and children bearing a disproportionate burden. Lack of testing and reporting means huge numbers of COVID-19 deaths go unreported, especially in poorer countries. Modeling using excess death metrics estimates that 19.6 million people have died from COVID-19, more than three times the official death toll. Based on this analysis, Oxfam calculated that for every death in a high-income country, around four more people died in a low- or lower-middle-income country. On a per capita basis, deaths in low- and lower-middle-income countries are 31% higher than in high-income countries.

Oxfam has also calculated that three million deaths from COVID-19 have occurred in the three months since the emergence of the Omicron variant. The figure shatters perceptions that Omicron’s milder disease means the pandemic is coming to an end, while the more contagious variant is tearing unvaccinated populations apart. According to some estimates, more than half of humanity should have been infected with COVID-19 by the end of March 2022. Although most cases are mild, the number of cases means that the death toll remains high .

The report also highlights that:

  • Every minute, four children around the world lose a parent or caregiver to COVID. In India alone, more than two million children have lost a caregiver.
  • Women were 1.4 times more likely to drop out of the labor force than men due to the pandemic.
  • 99% of humanity is worse off due to COVID-19, 160 million people have been pushed into poverty and 137 million people have lost their jobs.

However, not everyone has lost to the pandemic, with a new billionaire created every 26 hours. Among these new billionaires, 40 are COVID-19 billionaires, having made their billions by taking advantage of vaccines, treatments, tests and personal protective equipment (PPE). During the pandemic, the world’s 10 richest men have seen their fortunes double, growing at a rate of $1.3 billion a day, or $15,000 a second.

Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s health policy manager, said: “After two years, we all want this pandemic to be over, but politicians in rich countries are exploiting this fatigue to ignore the devastating impact of COVID-19 which is continues to this day.

“While incredibly effective vaccines brought hope, rich countries have derailed the global rollout of vaccines with nationalism, greed and self-interest. Suggestions that we are entering a “post-COVID era” ignore the continued deaths in mostly low-income countries that could be prevented by vaccines.

Oxfam is part of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a global coalition of nearly 100 organisations, campaigning for vaccine equity by supporting a waiver of intellectual property rules on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, and forcing pharmaceutical companies to share their science and know-how with producers in developing countries, so that they can manufacture their own doses.

Maaza Seyoum, Global South Convenor for the People’s Vaccine Alliance, said, “Rich countries and corporations have blocked the global response to COVID-19 for their own benefit, leaving countries in the South to bear the brunt of this pandemic.

“While billions of people still do not have access to vaccines, some have the audacity to claim that the pandemic is over. It’s a total mistake. The third and fourth doses in rich countries alone cannot wipe out the ever-increasing death toll in low-income countries.

“The charity approach to global vaccination has failed. Countries in the South can and should manufacture vaccines and treatments themselves – and they must retain control of their own supplies. Rich countries must abandon intellectual property rules on COVID-19 technologies and forcing big pharma to share revenue.

The report, “Pandemic of greed“, warns that dangerous myths have fueled the pandemic and excused a lack of bold and innovative policy action.

Gregg Gonsalves, associate professor of epidemiology at Yale University, said: “While Omicron tends to cause milder disease in many, the variant’s higher transmissibility means it can cut a deadly streak. across countries, especially among the unvaccinated. We may all be done with the coronavirus, but the coronavirus is not done with all of us.

“There has to be a better way out of the suffering of the past two years, a way where everyone has access to vaccines, and no one is disposable. Public health decisions must be based on comprehensive evidence, not political agendas.

“The emerging ‘post-COVID’ narrative from rich countries will only deepen the complacency that has plagued the global fight against COVID-19. Countries in the South naturally want to take matters into their own hands – and rich countries should let them make.

Notes to editors

Download the Oxfam report”Pandemic of greed“.

Contact information

Laura Rusu in the United States | [email protected] | (202) 459-3739

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