Four steps to an affordable and accessible COVID-19 vaccine

This pandemic will not be over until it’s over for everyone.

Last year a new vaccine against Ebola proved highly effective, however the limited number of doses made available meant that it did not reach enough people at the height of the epidemic centered in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Here, a team at the MSF-supported health center of Kanzulinzuli, in Beni, prepares for vaccinations.
Democratic Republic of Congo 2019 © Samuel Sieber/MSF
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We know that global demand for future COVID-19 vaccines will quickly outstrip the available supply.

It’s not enough to develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine. We must ensure there are enough doses for everyone who needs the vaccine, and that people can afford it. That means advocating for policies that advance equitable access even before these vaccines enter the market. It also means holding the pharmaceutical industry accountable.

1. Attach conditions to COVID-19 research funding

Governments and philanthropies have given more than $5.4 billion to pharmaceutical corporations for research and development of a COVID-19 vaccine—without attaching many conditions. Without conditions attached, millions of dollars in public funding could be spent on a vaccine that never makes it to market, or is not accessible to the world’s most vulnerable communities.

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Any future COVID-19 vaccines must be accessible for all

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2. Sell COVID-19 vaccines at cost

Governments and Gavi, the vaccine alliance, must require pharmaceutical corporations to sell COVID-19 vaccines at the cost of production immediately. We must ensure these corporations prioritize lives over profits, especially during a pandemic that has killed more than one million people. If COVID-19 vaccines are too expensive, millions of people will be left behind.

3. Increase transparency into vaccine research and production

It’s not enough for some pharmaceutical corporations to promise to sell vaccines at ‘not-for-profit’ prices. They must show the public, which has contributed billions of dollars to research and development, the true cost of vaccine production. Governments and Gavi have so far have required little transparency from these corporations, including about how they plan to price COVID-19 vaccines.

4. Ensure equitable vaccine distribution among all countries

Gavi recently launched the COVAX Facility, a new global purchasing initiative that will also finance COVID-19 vaccines for low- and middle-income countries. But the COVAX Facility has a two-tiered system of access based upon countries’ economic standing, which may widen global inequity. The world’s wealthiest countries shouldn’t be the only ones that have options to access these vaccines. 

This pandemic will not be over until it’s over for everyone. That’s why Doctors Without Borders/Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF) demands that future COVID-19 vaccines remain affordable and accessible for all countries equally.