Vaccine inequality 'a failure of the international community': Oxford Vaccine Group chief


Our guest has overseen one of the most significant achievements in human health in recent memory: the development of one of the vaccines against Covid-19, billions of doses of which have been distributed around the world. Professor Andrew Pollard is director of the Oxford Vaccine Group – the scientists who developed one of those jabs, which is now being mass produced by AstraZeneca.


To date, the Oxford-developed vaccinehas given protection against Covid-19 to well over a billion people worldwide.

But its story has not been without incident: from negative comments from French President Emmanuel Macron, to concerns about its safety and outright manufactured misinformation.  

It's also a jab that has – along with the other Covid-19 vaccines – not been available equally to all people around the world. 

At the time of recording this show, close to 80 percent of people in the EU have received at least one dose of one of the Covid-19 vaccines. The average across African countries is less than 8 percent.

Professor Pollard tells FRANCE 24 he believes that vaccine inequality around the world is "a failure of the international community [...] About 10,000 people will die today because they didn't have access to a vaccine". He also warns that the pandemic "only ends when the whole world has got control of the severe disease that puts the burden on health systems".

With children and students returning to education right now, countries including France, the UK, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands are offering vaccines to the over-12s. Asked how useful this policy is, Professor Pollard told FRANCE 24: "For healthy children, the overall benefits to the child are very, very low, because the risk of Covid is so low in children."

He added: "So I think it does bring some confidence to people when their children are vaccinated but the actual benefit is relatively small."

After a recent study showed that the effectiveness of all the vaccines currently authorised in the EU and the UK drops off after four to six months, Professor Pollard offers reassurance: "So far all reports have suggested that protection has been holding up against severe disease. Even if it were to start to wane, that immunity doesn't suddenly fall off a cliff [...] There is no need to be alarmed at this moment about waning effectiveness of vaccines."

Professor Pollard also explains why the Oxford Vaccine Group is now recruiting volunteers for trials of a vaccine against plague: an illness that killed half the population of Europe in the Middle Ages, but which has been eradicated from the continent. With plague outbreaks still occurring in many other parts of the world, Professor Pollard cautions that "we need to continue to develop vaccines that will protect people against other diseases – it's not just coronavirus that's a problem in the world".

Produced by Isabelle Romero, Perrine Desplats, Mathilde Bénézet and Céline Schmitt

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