The Omicron variant of the Coronavirus, though milder, could spread in lightning speed affecting large populace in a short span. The need of hospitalisation was comparatively less than the earlier variants, but the pressure on the health system was well witnessed in the rich, middle and low income countries. The rich countries in Europe are now administering the booster doses to their people while the Asia the countries are far from full vaccination of its people due to lack of vaccine availability. The overall vaccination in Africa remains around 11% of its population1. Though there is vaccine hesitancy in the region, the prime reason is the lack of vaccine availability. Vaccine hesitancy also exists in other regions including Asia and Europe.
The artificial shortage of vaccines created by monopolising the technology has resulted in mutation of the virus in regular intervals and affecting humanity. It’s very clear that even if the people in rich countries are fully vaccinated, they remain vulnerable. The proof is the scale at which France, Germany, UK and other European countries, where the vaccination rate is quite high, have been engulfed by the Omicron variant. The situation endorses the slogan of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the CSOs fighting for vaccine equality including GCAP, People’s Vaccine Alliance and others, that “No one is safe, till everyone is safe”. The rich countries like the UK, Germany and European Union have been blocking the demand for a TRIPS waiver of the Covid vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics by coming under the pressure of the greedy Pharma companies, thus endangering the lives of people in low and middle income countries so also in rich countries. This is despite clamour by the civil society, global leaders and low and middle income countries for last more than a year.
Of late the European Union (EU) has acknowledged that the intellectual property restrictions are a barrier to access vaccines. It has entered into negotiation with India and South Africa and has proposed a compromised formula. This proposal however has been criticised a lot and it has been rejected by the People’s Vaccine Alliance and world leaders like Ban Ki-Moon, who suggests that India and South Africa should not accept half measure by west when lives are on line during the Covid-19 pandemic. While the global supply of vaccines is discriminatory and unequal creating a north-south divide, studies and observations in global south suggest the discrimination in vaccination among the marginalised groups including women, indigenous communities, transgender communities, migrants, communities discriminated by work and descent (CDWD), persons with disabilities (PwD) and there is also a rural and urban divide.
The covid has severely impacted the livelihood of people forcing millions into poverty and unemployment. The only way out is to fully vaccinate the global population and formulate policies for free and universal vaccination in the country. With these developments, GCAP proposes a global webinar on Vaccine Inequality with the following objectives.