Bangladeshi Nobel laureate says COVID-19 vaccine must be free from commercial interests

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Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 04 July 2020

Bangladeshi Nobel laureate says COVID-19 vaccine must be free from commercial interests

DHAKA: The only way to contain the coronavirus pandemic is to have COVID-19 vaccines free from commercial interests, Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus told Arab News in an exclusive interview, as over 100 statesmen, academics, activists and religious leaders joined his campaign to declare coronavirus vaccines a global common good.
“I believe that, ultimately, the only way to definitively eradicate the pandemic is to have a vaccine that can be administered to all inhabitants of the planet,” Yunus said. “The effectiveness of the upcoming vaccination campaign will depend on its universality. To ensure the availability of the vaccines to all people on the planet almost at the same time, it has to be free from ownership.”
Vaccine research requires huge investments and many laboratories in the private sector are engaged in it. Yunus urged the World Health Organization (WHO) to design an action plan to put the vaccine into the public domain.
“To do so we intend to make a global pharmaceutical social business operational as soon as possible. I am looking for partners to help us achieve this goal,” said the economist, who pioneered tiny loans for village entrepreneurs as a way to fight poverty.
The “Declare COVID-19 Vaccine a Global Common Good Now” campaign launched by Yunus on Sunday has already gained the support of 19 Nobel Prize laureates, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Malala Yousafzai, Iranian political activist and lawyer Shirin Ebadi, Poland’s first democratically elected president Lech Walesa, British molecular biologist Sir Richard John Roberts, and former Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev.
Yunus said he was expecting a huge response from global leaders to ensure that, in the case of a COVID-19 vaccine, there would be consensus for free universal access. He warned that this would not happen as long as the vaccine remained a commercial product owned by companies.
“It has to be freed from commercial interest. The polio vaccine was declared as a common good, not owned by anybody. Why not (have) the corona vaccine follow the same path?”
As of Friday, 112 former presidents, prime ministers, business leaders, artists and social activists joined his mission. Everyone can support the initiative through the website www.vaccinecommongood.org.
More than 11 million people around the world have contracted COVID-19 since late December. The disease has already claimed 524,700 lives.


Russia aims to produce ‘millions’ of virus doses by 2021

Updated 8 min 54 sec ago

Russia aims to produce ‘millions’ of virus doses by 2021

  • The Gamaleya institute came under fire after researchers and directors injected themselves with the prototype months ago
  • Scientists have told AFP that Russia will struggle to adapt the vaccine to mass production because the country lacks raw materials, adequate facilities and experience

MOSCOW: Russia said Monday it aims to launch mass production of a coronavirus vaccine next month and turn out “several million” doses per month by next year.
The country is pushing ahead with several vaccine prototypes and one prepared at the Gamaleya institute in Moscow has reached advanced stages of development.
“We are very much counting on starting mass production in September,” industry minister Denis Manturov said in an interview published by TASS news agency.
“We will be able to ensure production volumes of several hundred thousand a month, with an eventual increase to several million by the start of next year,” he said, adding that one developer is preparing production technology at three locations in central Russia.
Health Minister Mikhail Murashko on Saturday said the Gamaleya vaccine had “completed clinical trials” and that documents were being prepared to register it with the state.
Another vaccine, developed by Siberia-based Vektor lab, is currently undergoing clinical trials and two more will begin human testing within the next two months, Murashko said.
Gamaleya’s vaccine is a so-called viral vector vaccine, meaning it employs another virus to carry the DNA encoding of the needed immune response into cells.
Gamaleya’s vaccine employs the adenovirus, a similar technology to the coronavirus vaccine prototype developed by China’s CanSino, currently in the advanced stage of clinical trials.
The Gamaleya institute came under fire after researchers and directors injected themselves with the prototype months ago, with specialists criticizing the move as an unorthodox and rushed way of starting human trials.
Scientists have told AFP that Russia will struggle to adapt the vaccine to mass production because the country lacks raw materials, adequate facilities and experience, particularly with advanced technology like viral vector.
Some Russian officials have boasted that the country will be the first to come up with the vaccine, even comparing it to the space race to produce the first satellite in the Soviet era.
Moscow has dismissed allegations from the UK, the United States and Canada that a hacking group linked to Russian intelligence services tried to steal information about a coronavirus vaccine from labs in the West.
Russia’s coronavirus caseload is currently fourth in the world after the United States, Brazil and India.