There is no shortage of manufacturing capacity: it is possible to make enough vaccines for the world. Instead, vaccine-preventable deaths and disease are occurring at an unprecedented rate and scale in Africa, Asia and Latin America. And the reason? A market economy, profit-oriented company based on patent protection and intellectual property combined with a lack of political will. While rich countries hoard a billion unused doses, poorer nations, where only 1-2% of their populations are vaccinated, remain at the mercy of the virus.
The answer is just as clear, say our editors. Vaccine manufacturing needs to be globalized, intellectual property rights relaxed to allow technology transfer, and regional production centers need to be established. More than 100 countries have supported this approach, but it is being blocked by vaccine makers and rich countries.
Centuries of injustice have diverted Africa’s wealth, leaving the continent without the necessary manufacturing infrastructure. India has no shortage of manufacturing capacity, but production is limited to the two vaccine manufacturers with patent rights, and half of the cans produced in India are exported or given away as relief supplies. The irregular supply has created confusion, discrimination and corruption.