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CAMPAIGNERS say that “significant problems” remain around the fair distribution of the new Oxford vaccine, which was rolled out in Britain for the first time today.
Dialysis patient Brian Pinker, 82, became the first person in the world today to receive the jab outside of clinical trials at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s Churchill Hospital.
More than half a million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine are now ready for use and will be administered from six hospital trusts: in Oxford, London, Sussex, Lancashire and Warwickshire.
Britain has secured 100 million doses of the vaccine, enough for most of the population.
But campaigners have raised concerns about global access to the vaccine, especially in poorer countries.
“While the rollout of another vaccine is a vital ray of hope this morning, and while it’s positive that AstraZeneca has promised not to profit from this vaccine, significant problems remain,” Global Justice Now director Nick Dearden said.
“This vaccine was made with public money, at Oxford University, and was supposed to be a genuine ‘people’s vaccine’ for the world, allowing know-how to be shared freely without the awful patent system.
“That hasn’t happened, and so the patent system will continue to artificially restrict production of this urgently needed vaccine.”
Mr Dearden urged the government to stop blocking international action to suspend patent laws, saying: “There is just no way you can justify corporate monopolies or ‘business as usual’ while this virus rages.”
The British government last month opposed calls from India and South Africa to waive patents on Covid-19 treatments until the end of the pandemic.
But AstraZeneca said that they will sell doses at cost price for a temporary period.
Anti-privatisation campaign We Own It also raised concerns about the rollout of vaccines, urging programmes to be managed “through GPs and primary care services, who people trust and want to run their health services.”
We Own It campaigns manager Pascale Robinson said: “Rather than investing in our NHS and in public health teams, the government instead hived off contact tracing, testing and PPE procurement to private companies like Serco and Deloitte.
“We can’t make the same mistakes again.”
Downing Street said that the government was “ramping up” the coronavirus vaccination programme with the rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.
NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis has said that the aim is to get two million people a week vaccinated.
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