UNODC Addresses Corruption Risks Related to COVID-19 Vaccines

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Vienna (Austria), 10 December 2020 — To mark International Anti-Corruption Day on 9 December, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published a policy paper for Member States outlining ways to identify and mitigate corruption risks related to the manufacture, allocation and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage globally, denoting the urgency of developing and ensuring access to affordable, safe and efficient vaccines. Vaccines are currently being approved at record speed across the world based on positive results announced by a number of vaccine candidates in November 2020. As an immediate next step, follows the pressing need for their rapid deployment. 

In her statement on International Anti-Corruption Day, UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly highlighted the urgency of the global crisis. “The COVID-19 crisis threatens to push more than 100 million people into extreme poverty this year alone. To save lives and livelihoods, governments are spending and fast-tracking economic stimulus packages. Corruption is targeting these emergency measures, weakening vital health and social systems, with lethal consequences,” she said. 

A critical response will be required by governments to ensure that their citizens have access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. Many governments have indicated that they aim to set up COVID-19 vaccine programmes that will cover their entire populations. The scale and complexity of the manufacture, allocation and distribution of the vaccines will be unprecedented.

In his statement on corruption in the context of COVID-19, Secretary-General Guterres underscored that “[corruption] is even more damaging in times of crisis – as the world is experiencing now with the COVID-19 pandemic.” He also noted that the pandemic is creating new opportunities for corruption.

Corruption risks related to the manufacture, acquisition and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines can threaten economies and public health systems worldwide. These risks include the entry of substandard and falsified vaccines into markets, the theft of vaccines within distribution systems, leakages in emergency funding designated for the development and distribution of vaccines, nepotism, favouritism and corrupt procurement systems.

The policy paper highlights both short- and long-term solutions for governments to address the risks in the current pandemic and increase their preparedness for potential future crisis scenarios.

The United Nations Convention against Corruption provides a solid global framework for efforts to address corruption risks related to the manufacture, allocation and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines,” says Ms. Brigitte Strobel-Shaw, Chief of the UNODC Corruption and Economic Crime Branch

Governments are faced with a daunting task as they work towards ensuring access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for their citizensespecially the most vulnerable and marginalized groups. UNODC can assist Member States to strengthen their legislative and policy frameworks and to identify and mitigate corruption risks related to the manufacture, allocation and distribution of the vaccines,” she adds.

This publication is part of a series of UNODC policy papers to address challenges and propose recommendations for the immediate and long-term response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The full set of UNODC policy documents and research briefs is available online