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Global access to Covid-19 vaccines: Lifting the veil of opacity

Vaccines offer a way out of the Covid-19 pandemic, but only if there is universal and equitable access to those vaccines worldwide. Lack of transparency along the vaccine value chain – in research and development, manufacturing, distribution, and contracting – has contributed to vaccine access that is highly unequal, favouring the rich countries. Urgent action is needed to ensure greater transparency and contribute to securing fair access to Covid-19 vaccines around the world.

26 October 2021
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Global access to Covid-19 vaccines: Lifting the veil of opacity

Main points

  • Enormous amounts of public money have subsidised vaccine development and production, but the details of where, why, how, with whom, and under what conditions this money has been spent are rarely made public. This impedes well-informed public debate and open decision making on the different options for scaling up vaccine production.
  • Secrecy and opacity in Covid-19 contracting, both at national levels and in COVAX, make it difficult to know how many vaccines are and will be available, to which countries, and by when. And insufficient public information on bilateral donations by vaccine-producing countries results in perceptions of ‘vaccine diplomacy’. Both issues hinder equitable distribution of vaccines.
  • Transparency and accountability are essential for better collective decision making around the development, production, distribution, and contracting of Covid-19 vaccines.
  • National governments, the European Union, and COVAX should disclose amounts and conditions of R&D funding; develop specific provisions for clinical trial transparency in the context of pandemics; set up an international clearinghouse of information on vaccine demand and supply; and ensure that all Covid-19 vaccine contracts are publicly available and that redactions are justified and kept to a minimum.
  • Donor agencies and international organisations should work for policy coherence in line with the Sustainable Development Goals; promote transparency in all COVAX processes; support the development of an international clearinghouse of information on Covid-19 vaccines; support civil society organisations and academia in their research and engagement with the public; contribute to the sharing of lessons learned for future pandemics; and support the development of minimum transparency standards for vaccines in pandemics.

Cite this publication

Hussmann, K.; (2021) Global access to Covid-19 vaccines: Lifting the veil of opacity. Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Issue 2021:12)

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About the author

Karen Hussmann

Karen Hussmann is a public policy expert with extensive experience in governance, anti-corruption issues, health-sector integrity, and fragile states. Her experience includes having been the director of an EU financed anti-corruption programme in Colombia, senior consultant for the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre and the EUROsociAL II Programme in Latin America, and accountability expert with UNDP in Afghanistan. She has also worked many years with Transparency International. She is currently an independent consultant conducting applied policy research and working with partners on policy development and implementation of anti-corruption standards. She teaches the U4 online courses Essentials of anti-corruption and Corruption risk management.


All views in this text are the author(s)’, and may differ from the U4 partner agencies’ policies.

This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


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