Skip to main content

Common Dreams. Journalism funded by people, not corporations.

There has never been—and never will be—an advertisement on our site except for this one: without readers like you supporting our work, we wouldn't exist.

No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news and opinion 365 days a year that is freely available to all and funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Our mission is clear. Our model is simple. If you can, please support our Fall Campaign today.

Support Our Work -- No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. Please support our Fall Campaign today.

A medic holds up a vial of the Covishield Covid-19 vaccine at Balrampur Hospital, on January 16, 2021 in Lucknow, India. (Photo: Deepak Gupta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

'Deeply Alarming': AstraZeneca Charging South Africa More Than Double What Europeans Pay for Covid-19 Vaccine

"This is the problem when you have essential medicines in the hands of big business, with almost no transparency as to pricing."

Jon Queally

"The unfair patent system is now one the biggest obstacles to defeating this virus."

That was the core critique from Nick Dearden, executive director of the U.K.-based advocacy group Global Justice Now, on Friday morning in response to news this week that South Africa is paying more than double for AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine compared to most countries in Europe.

According to a report by The Guardian, a Belgian minister leaked information revealing that European Union members are paying  €1.78 ($2.16) per dose for the AstraZeneca vaccine. Meanwhile, even as the pharmaceutical giant has said it would cap the price at €2.50 (approx. $3) per dose, South Africa's deputy director general of health Anban Pillay confirmed to the newspaper that it was quoted a price of $5.25 per dose.

"The explanation we were given for why other high-income countries have a lower price is that they have invested in the [research and development], hence the discount on the price," Pillay told Business Day.

As Global Justice Now noted in a statement, the Thursday's news from South Africa came the same day it was revealed that the World Health Organization (WHO) initiative "to share the science and know-how for coronavirus medicines had received no contributions"—a disappointing outcome that campaigners said was the result of a kind of joint boycott by Big Pharma and wealthy governments.

"South Africa's desperate predicament is a symptom of the shocking failure of rich countries to deal with this virus in a fair and effective manner," said Dearden in his statement. "Like many African countries, cases are soaring in South Africa, yet many countries will find a European-style lockdown impossible. As cases spread, mutations will continue to manifest and threaten all of our efforts to contain this disease."

While pointing a finger at the global patent system which allows drug corporations to prevent mass production of generic alternatives and the sharing of life-saving technology, Dearden said the situation in South Africa exemplifies the injustice that is being felt—and will continue to be felt—when the people in poorer or less-developed nations are treated as second-class humans compared to their more wealthy counterparts.

"We are calling on AstraZeneca to explain how this pricing has happened, given their promise to cap charges," said Dearden. "This is the problem when you have essential medicines in the hands of big business, with almost no transparency as to pricing. We urgently need technology and patents placed in public hands so we can share this knowledge and produce more vaccines now. Our ability to defeat this virus fairly and effectively depends upon it."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Tax Them All': Warren, Wyden Lead Push for Minimum Corporate Tax in Build Back Better Act

"Giant corporations have been exploiting tax loopholes for too long, and it's about time they pay their fair share to help run this country, just like everyone else," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Julia Conley ·



'Not Just Immoral, Deadly': How Corporate Lobbyists Ramped Up Spending Ahead of COP26

"The fossil fuel lobby's grimy fingerprints are all over yet another congressional deadlock on meaningful climate action," warned one campaigner.

Jon Queally ·


Watch: Bernie Sanders Argues 'We Must End the Greed of Big Pharma'

The live address comes as the Senate Budget Committee chair continues to push for including Medicare expansion and drug pricing reforms in the Build Back Better package.

Common Dreams staff ·


Reconciliation Framework 'Not Enough' to Push Through Infrastructure Bill, Progressives Warn

"We need to have a vote ready for the Build Back Better plan, not a framework," insisted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. "We want to have both of these votes together."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo