WASHINGTON, D.C. — Johnson & Johnson prioritized COVID-19 vaccine doses to wealthy countries, including the U.S. and European Union while failing to meet even the most modest delivery targets for COVAX, the global initiative to supply low-income countries, a new Public Citizen report found.
Last month, COVAX expected a delivery of four million doses from the 200 million doses it contracted with Johnson & Johnson, according to the report. However, COVAX received none of the initial contracted doses that month, while rich countries with largely vaccinated populations, including the U.S. and members of the EU, received nearly 12 million doses from the manufacturer. COVAX only started receiving its first contracted doses the week of Nov. 15. These instances highlight vaccine manufacturers prioritizing their contracts with wealthy nations over COVAX and low-income countries that are in desperate need of vaccines.
“Vaccine makers are picking wealthy countries over poor ones, making it harder to achieve global vaccination and end the pandemic,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program. “Johnson & Johnson let COVAX down; failing to deliver even a single contracted dose for months.”
On Monday, Johnson & Johnson announced that Europe would donate up to 100 million of the company’s doses to COVAX “through the remainder of this year and into early 2022.” But Public Citizen’s report also found that Johnson & Johnson restricted the EU in its initial contract from making donations to COVAX intended for upper middle-income countries, including Botswana, Libya and South Africa.
“Johnson & Johnson cannot be allowed to call the shots on who gets access,” said Zain Rizvi, research director in Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program. “Wealthy governments can rein in Johnson & Johnson and help vaccinate the world quickly.”
Public Citizen urged the U.S. and EU to require that Johnson & Johnson and other manufacturers prioritize deliveries to COVAX and other developing countries, and called on the U.S. to use the Defense Production Act to require manufacturers to share vaccine recipes to increase production globally.