As the race for a vaccine against the new coronavirus intensifies, rich countries are rushing to place advance orders for the inevitably limited supply to guarantee their citizens get immunized first — leaving significant questions about whether developing countries will get any vaccine before the pandemic ends.
Earlier this month, the United Nations, International Red Cross and Red Crescent, and others said it was a “moral imperative” that everyone have access to a “people’s vaccine.” But such grand declarations are unenforceable, and without a detailed strategy, the allocation of vaccines could be extremely messy.
“We have this beautiful picture of everyone getting the vaccine, but there is no road map on how to do it,” said Yuan Qiong Hu, a senior legal and policy adviser at Medecins Sans Frontieres in Geneva. She said numerous problems must be resolved to manage distribution and that few measures have been taken.
In the past, Hu said, companies have often applied for patents for nearly every step of a vaccine’s development and production: from the biological material like cell lines used, to the preservative needed to stretch vaccine doses and even how the shots are administered.
“We can’t afford to face these multiple layers of private rights to create a `people’s vaccine,”’ she said, urging “very open conditions” so every manufacturer capable of doing so can produce a vaccine once its proven effective.
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Speaking at a vaccine summit earlier this month that addressed the thorny issue of equitable distribution, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo agreed.
“The global spread of COVID-19 has told us in no uncertain terms that disease knows no boundaries and no country can afford to go it alone,” he said. “Only a people’s vaccine with equality and solidarity at its core can protect all of humanity from the virus. … A bold international agreement to this end cannot wait.”
Worldwide, about a dozen potential COVID-19 vaccines are in early stages of testing. While some could move into late-stage testing later this year if all goes well, it’s unlikely any would be licensed before early next year at the earliest. Still, numerous rich countries have already ordered some of these experimental shots and expect delivery even before they are granted marketing approval.
Britain and the U.S. have sunk millions of dollars into various vaccine candidates, including one being developed by Oxford University and manufactured by AstraZeneca. In return, both countries are expected to get priority treatment; the British government declared that if the vaccine proves effective, the first 30 million doses would be earmarked for Britons.
Separately AstraZeneca signed an agreement to make at least 300 million doses available for the U.S., with the first batches delivered as early as October. In a briefing Tuesday, senior Trump administration officials said there will be a tiered system to determine who in America is offered the first vaccine doses. Tiers likely would include groups most at risk of severe disease and workers performing essential services.
Last week, the European Union moved to ensure its own supply. On Saturday, AstraZeneca struck a deal with a vaccines group forged by Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands to secure 400 million doses by the end of the year.
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Among several global efforts underway to try to ensure developing countries don’t get left behind is an “advance market commitment” from the vaccines alliance GAVI that aims to persuade manufacturers to make enough for both rich and poor countries.
That can “prevent countries from scrambling to try to invest,” said Seth Berkley, CEO of GAVI, which used the approach to secure Ebola and pneumonia vaccines for a global market. “Because if you’re investing in one or two vaccines, of course the … probability of those vaccines working is quite low. And so yes, you may hit the jackpot and have a vaccine that works. But you also may end up with no vaccine and be left behind.”
Two global vaccine groups have inked a $750 million deal with AstraZeneca to supply 400 million doses by the end of 2020. The Anglo-Swedish pharma giant has also agreed to license its vaccine to India’s Serum Institute for the production of 1 billion doses.
Johnson & Johnson’s chief scientific officer, Dr. Paul Stoffels, said the company plans to make its coronavirus shot for poor countries at a not-for-profit price, because of the complexity of the technology and expertise needed. Likewise, AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot has pledged to make the vaccine available at no profit during the pandemic.
The World Health Organization and others have called for a COVID-19 “patents pool,” where intellectual property rights would be surrendered so pharmaceuticals could freely share data and technical knowledge. Numerous countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada and Germany have already begun revising their licensing laws to allow them to suspend intellectual property rights if authorities decide there is an overwhelming need given the pandemic.
But the response from the industry has been lukewarm.
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Executives at Pfizer and some other major drug makers say they oppose suspending patent rights for potential COVID-19 vaccines.
Although vaccine stockpiles exist for diseases like yellow fever, cholera and meningitis, these are required only for a few developing countries during acute outbreaks. There is no precedent for divvying up vaccines that would arguably be needed by every country on the planet.
“We can’t just rely on goodwill to ensure access,” said Arzoo Ahmed, of Britain’s Nuffield Council on Bioethics, noting that precedents of how innovative drugs have been distributed are not encouraging. “With HIV/AIDS, it took 10 years for the drugs to reach people in lower-income countries. If that happens with COVID-19, that would be very worrying.”
Other experts pointed out that there are billions of dollars devoted to every stage of vaccine development, but little oversight over how the funds are spent and few guarantees the shots will get to those who need them most.
Suerie Moon, co-director of the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute Geneva, said it’s unclear how any vaccines meant for developing countries will actually be distributed. “We don’t know what the process will look like or how transparent it will be,” she said.
Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s chief scientist, said the U.N. health agency is currently working on developing an “allocation framework” for how coronavirus vaccines should be given out. But this guidance would not be binding.
“We don’t want to be in a situation where there are doses of a vaccine but they’re just available to some countries,” she said. “We need to have a consensus on that so we can agree to share the vaccine in a way that protects the most vulnerable.”
Larson reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Danica Kirka in London, Lauran Neergaard in Alexandria, Virginia, and Linda A. Johnson in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania, contributed to this report.
© 2020 The Canadian Press
Canada’s economy creates almost 1 million jobs in June – Canada Immigration News
Lifting coronavirus-related lockdown restrictions around the country has sparked the beginning of Canada’s economic recovery.
Many Canadians and permanent residents returned to work for their previous employers while others started new jobs.
Between February and April, a total of 3 million people lost their jobs due to the lockdown, and another 2.5 million were absent from work due to coronavirus-related reasons, according to a Statistics Canada report published on Friday.
May saw a slow start of economic recovery as 290,000 people returned to work. Building on this, the month of June helped alleviate low unemployment rates across the country as employment increased by a record 953,000 people.
These last two months saw the labour market recover by a staggering 40%. Over 1.24 million people gained employment, after 3 million people lost their jobs earlier in the year.
Canada’s overall unemployment rate dropped from 13.7% in May to 12.3% in June.
In addition, the report says that labour force participation rate has increased substantially over the last two months up to 63.8% in June. In comparison, it was 65.5% in February, before coronavirus-related restrictions.
The labour force participation rate is the percentage of the population, aged 15 or older, who are part of the labour force.
This suggests that many people are now more optimistic about the potential of finding a job. The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB)’s requirement to actively search for work may be another factor. The CESB was introduced to alleviate financial struggles of students who may have been affected by the coronavirus-related restrictions
Moreover, the number of people who work less than half of their usual hours also decreased in June to 26.9% down from 34.3%.
The rise of employment across all provinces is largely aligned with the easing of lockdown restrictions.
Employment in Ontario increased by 378,000 (or 5.9%), Quebec by 248,000 (or 6.5%) and British Columbia by 118,000 (or 5.4%).
As Canada begins reopening its economy, many Canadians and permanent residents have returned to work or have begun looking for work.
In addition, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has returned to normal in terms of Express Entry draws. The latest draw held was an all-program draw. This means that candidates for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and the Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC) were also considered.
Since the travel restrictions were put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, IRCC had been holding program-specific draws, alternating between Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) draws and Canadian Experience Class (CEC) draws.
Canada’s latest job statistics is good news for these immigrants since they can expect a stronger job market once they have obtained permanent residence.
© 2020 CIC News All Rights Reserved
COVID-19: Alberta reports 77 new cases on Friday, death count falls by 1 – CTV News
Alberta reported 77 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing its total number of cases to 8,596.
There are 592 active cases across the province and 7,844 people have recovered from the coronavirus.
The province’s death count fell by one on Friday, from 161 to 160. The number of COVID-19-related deaths fell from 18 to 17.
“One of the deaths reported at the Misericordia has been determined to not have COVID-19 as a contributing cause of death,” a spokesman for the province told CTV News.
The city of Edmonton has now surpassed 1,000 total cases, with 1,001. Its number of active cases sits at 173.
More than 510,000 COVID-19 tests have now been completed in Alberta.
Edmonton, Calgary top Canadian cities in unemployment – CTV News Edmonton
Alberta has the second-worst provincial unemployment rate in Canada after Newfoundland and Labrador..
According to new Statistics Canada data, unemployment reached 15.5 per cent in June.
It marks an 8.8 per cent difference from the same time last year.
The only province with a higher unemployment rate is Newfoundland and Labrador, at 16.5 per cent.
And unemployment in Alberta’s largest cities is also highest among Canadian major urban centres: about 15.7 per cent of the Edmonton workforce is currently unemployed, and 15.6 per cent of the Calgary workforce.
In May, their unemployment rates were 13.6 per cent and 13.4 per cent, respectively.
The news comes alongside a report that Canada added 953,000 jobs in June as businesses forced to close by the pandemic began to reopen.
“That’s important progress but we have a long way to go,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney commented Friday at a news conference in Fort Saskatchewan, where a carbon capture and storage facility recently reached the five-million equivalent tonnes milestone.
Kenney’s government’s economic recovery plan centres on infrastructure projects that create jobs and making Alberta an attractive place for investment – as does the facility at the Shell Scotford complex, Kenney said.
“Projects like this are a key part of Alberta’s recovery plan to build, to diversify, and to create jobs. When the global economy comes back form COVID, when demand returns for oil and gas, we are going to see, I believe, something of a supply shortage because of all the upstream exploration that has been cancelled, and so we’ll see prices go up. And that will be a great opportunity for Alberta, especially as we make progress on pipelines,” he said.
“But there’s one critical factor, we’ve got to bring investment back. And that means we’ve got to demonstrate our progress on environmental responsibility which is why investments like this… are so important to jobs, the economy, and the future prosperity of Alberta.”
The national unemployment rate fell to 12.3 per cent after hitting a record-high of 13.7 per cent in May.
With files from CTVNews.ca
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