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‘Vaccine nationalism’ could lead to the coronavirus devastating public health and the economy, experts warn

“Vaccine nationalism” is turning the search for a Covid-19 cure into an arms race, which will ultimately damage the economy and public health, experts have warned. Analysts at Eurasia Group speculated that tension over a vaccine would heat up over the summer, predicting a battle for access that will stretch into 2021 or 2022.

“Countries rich and poor will engage in aggressive procurement efforts with significant political, economic and public health implications,” they said in a note earlier this year. “Existing international institutions and agreements will struggle to minimize this ‘vaccine nationalism.’”

The research group argued that some governments were already attempting to seize first access through large-scale investments. “In the U.S., the Biomedical Advanced Research Development Authority (BARDA) has been spreading its investments across a number of vaccine candidates in an effort to reduce the financial risks for pharmaceutical firms and lock in priority access to a successful vaccine,” the note’s authors said.

BARDA has financial interests in Moderna’s candidate vaccine and has invested in early research being conducted by French firm Sanofi and Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline. In May, the U.S. also invested $1 billion in AstraZeneca’s potential vaccine, which is being developed by scientists at the University of Oxford. The British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant is aiming to produce 2 billion doses of the vaccine, with a view to roll 400 million doses out to the U.S. and U.K. by October.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine has also received multimillion dollar investments from the U.K. government and a $843 million payment from some EU countries, who have secured access to the vaccine should it prove to be effective. Meanwhile, the Canadian government’s National Research Council has signed a deal with China’s CanSino Biologics to manufacture its vaccine for clinical trials in Canada this summer — giving Canada “an inside track on access,” according to Eurasia’s analysts.

President Donald Trump has voiced ambitions for a vaccine to be developed and distributed by the end of this year, in a project dubbed “Operation Warp Speed.” However, medical experts — including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert — have cast doubt on Trump’s goal. There are currently at least 160 potential Covid-19 vaccines being tested around the world, according to the WHO.

‘Vaccine nationalism’ could lead to the coronavirus devastating public health and the economy, experts warn, CNBC, Jul 10

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