Fauci stresses on need for equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Senate HELP Committee's update on COVID-19 and progress toward safely getting back to work and schools
FILE PHOTO: Senate HELP Committee's update on COVID-19 and progress toward safely getting back to work and schools

(Reuters) - U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said on Thursday vaccine developers should push to make billions of their COVID-19 vaccines to ensure access to all parts of the world, instead of focusing on the rich countries.

Fauci's comments come days after Pfizer Inc said its COVID-19 vaccine candidate was more than 90% effective based on initial results from a large-scale trial, securing a lead in the race to develop a safe and effective vaccine for the respiratory illness.

Pfizer has a $1.95 billion contract with the U.S. government to deliver 100 million vaccine doses beginning this year, as well as a deal with the European Union to supply up to 300 million doses.

"Now a number of different companies are talking about the ability to make billions of doses. That's what we need. We don't need hundreds of millions for the rich countries," Fauci said at a webinar conducted by British think tank Chatham House.

"We need billions (of vaccine doses), so whether you live in the darkest part of the developing world, or if you live in London, you should have the same access."

Experts have also raised doubts about access to the vaccine, especially in the developing countries, as it needs to be stored at temperatures of minus 70 degrees Celsius (-94 F) or below, posing infrastructure challenges.

"Certainly it is not going to be pandemic for a lot longer, because I believe the vaccines are going to turn that around," Fauci said, while adding that there may be a need to re-vaccinate people intermittently, if COVID-19 becomes endemic.

Fauci said efforts were underway in the United States to push for the development of antivirals and other therapies for early intervention during the course of the COVID-19 respiratory illness.

(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)