The Daily Dose: Access To COVID-19 vaccine’s a growing concern for developing countries

As the COVID-19 rages on, geopolitical inequalities continue to force governments to make forward looking but difficult decisions. One trend that has emerged has been for countries to volunteer to provide patients for clinical trials. Out of desperation, people are driven to enroll. Brazil has been a major player in this phenomenon with multiple pharmaceutical companies testing coronavirus vaccines and therapies there. Per Science, “More than 6 months after the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Brazil, the pandemic is still raging, now with about 30,000 new cases and 740 deaths daily. (The total death toll, 136,000, is second only to the United States’s.) Those grim statistics—along with a good medical infrastructure, vaccination expertise, a well-established regulatory system, and experience running clinical trials—have made Brazil an ideal place to put experimental COVID-19 vaccines to the test. At least four vaccine candidates, produced by Western and Chinese firms, are in trials here or soon will be. Negotiations are ongoing to test Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine as well.” If nothing else, COVID-19 has highlighted inequality around the world.

Developing countries are in particularly vulnerable positions during the COVID-19 and securing vaccines, once they are ready, is a large concern. Even with the formation of an international COVID-19 vaccine consortium, their prospects leaves a lot to be desired. Per the Associated Press, “More than 150 countries have joined COVAX, in which richer countries agree to buy into potential vaccines and help finance access for poorer ones. But the absence of Washington, Beijing and Moscow means the response to a health crisis unlike any other in the U.N.’s 75 years is short of truly being global. Instead, the three powers have made vague pledges of sharing any vaccine they develop, likely after helping their own citizens first.

Unlike the U.S., China, and Russia, Japan has joined COVAX, so good news on the coronavirus therapy front also holds promise for COVAX countries. According to the Japan Times, a tried and tested Japanese influenza drug has shown efficacy against SARS-COV-2. “The maker of anti-influenza drug Avigan said Wednesday it will apply for the medication to be approved for treating coronavirus patients after trials showed it can shorten recovery time… Of 156 individuals described as ‘analysis targets,’ the median recovery time was 11.9 days in those receiving Avigan compared with 14.7 for patients given a placebo.” We’ll end on that hopeful note.

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