Norway’s government is part of an EU scheme to ensure purchasing priority on candidate vaccines against Covid-19.
But the plan has been criticised by NGOs including the Red Cross, which says that the EU scheme risks disadvantaging developing countries, newspaper VG has reported.
The Red Cross, Save The Children and Norwegian People’s Aid sent a joint letter to the government earlier this year to express concern that a race to acquire a vaccine could take place at poorer countries’ expense.
“If Norway and other rich countries prioritise the purchase of vaccines to cover the demand in their own populations while others must wait, we risk contributing to unnecessary suffering and extending the corona pandemic,” Norwegian Red Cross general secretary Bernt G. Apeland told VG.
Last week, the EU commission signed an agreement to purchase up to 400 million doses of a vaccine which is under development by the University of Oxford and Swedish company AstraZeneca. In return for EU investment in the research, doses will be made available in the EU and Norway if the vaccine reaches approval.
The EU is also negotiating pre-purchase agreements over a number of other potential vaccines, including candidates in production by Moderna, Sanofi and GSK, Johnson & Johnson and CureVac.
“If we put Norway and Europe first, the consequences for the rest of the world will be even worse than necessary, and that helps nobody,” Apeland told VG.
Meanwhile, the WHO-led vaccine alliance Covax aims to ensure fair distribution of vaccines.
Norway has given billions of kroner to CEPI, a group participating in that alliance, which can help ensure supply to poorer countries, VG writes.
But it is unclear whether the Nordic country intends to rely on Covax for its own supply or purchase though the EU programme, according to VG.
At a press conference on Friday, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said that Norway would seek to ensure fair distribution but that the country must take measures to ensure it didn’t end at the back of the queue for vaccines.
“To ensure vaccines for the public, we have chosen to work with the EU,” Solberg said.
Health minister Bent Høie has rejected suggestions Norway is contributing to unfair distribution by joining the EU scheme.
“Norway increased our contribution to CEPI early on, ad that is helping to finance the development of vaccines. And we have worked actively to get other countries to contribute to that,” Høie told VG.