The mayhem that COVID-19 has unleashed on humanity sees no possibility of ending in the near future. The heart-rending stories coming from India are the latest shocking news where COVID patients are dying due to lack of liquid medical oxygen. The country is fully engulfed in the second COVID wave and daily caseloads exceeding the 400,000 mark and more than 3500 deaths where officially reported on May 1. Experts suggest that fully vaccinating the world is the only bullwork against the virus. The good news is that mass vaccination programmes have been launched across the globe with 1.17 billion vaccines have been inoculated in 174 countries within a few months. However, the unfortunate development is the vaccination inequality.
As per Bloomberg, “countries with [the] highest incomes are getting vaccinated 25 times faster than the countries with lowest income”. While the rich countries have hoarded and pre-ordered huge numbers of vaccines for themselves, e.g., Canada has ordered 10 times as much vaccine compared to its population, the poor countries are struggling to get a bare minimum, e.g., Afghanistan received only 500,000 doses for a population of 38 million. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres lamented “vaccine nationalism” and reiterated that “only together we will defeat COVID-19.” A major roadblock for fully rolling out and equitable vaccination is the patenting of the vaccines and other essentials medial implements. Tough private pharma companies have developed and manufactured the vaccines in most cases, big parts of the investment came from governments or universities and charities. In other words, public money has been used. Therefore, the approach of the big pharma companies to “make profit”, by cashing in on the misery of people does not hold up. Please find the opinion piece by Pradeep Baisakh, Asia Coordinator that gives a global overview on the issue here.
In response to the demands by the countries from the Global South, civil societies, Nobel laureates, former leaders and others, the USA has announced its support to the suspension of patent of the vaccines. GCAP welcomes this move and asks other countries blocking the patent waiver to agree as well. We also demand the transfer of technologies through the WHO Covid-19 Technology Access Pool, in order for vaccines can be manufactured across the developing world. The rich countries must ensure that the waiver applies not just to vaccines, but to all COVID-19 related technologies.
GCAP joined The People’s Vaccine Alliance
In this context, a call for “free vaccine for all, everywhere” has been made by the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a global alliance of civil societies, health experts, faith leaders, economists and so. Alongside GCAP, OXFAM, ActionAid, Amnesty International, UN AIDS, Global Justice Now, and many others are members. The People’s Vaccines Alliances demands to treat it as “a people’s vaccine, not a profit vaccine” and waive patent on the vaccines so that manufacturing can be done on a mass scale, once vaccine know-how and technologies are transferred. Demands also include a fair allocation of vaccines and affordable cost of vaccines for the low and middle income countries to purchase, a online petition is currently calling upon the world leaders and Pharmaceuticals calling to support the patent waver at the WTO.
GCAP is calling upon the world leaders and Pharmaceuticals to ensure a “free vaccine”. For example GCAP Asia was active in the TRIPS Waiver campaign in April 2021. Here is some media coverage: Indian media , Afghanistan media and Pressenza .
We look forward to closely work with you on this issue. In your countries you are encouraged to organise following actions:
- Online actions supporting #patentwaiver and #PeoplesVaccine
- Write public letters and tweet politicians to seek support for People’s Vaccine especially the patent waiver.
- Tweet big pharmas asking them to share know-how and technology
- Track national policies to ensure that the most marginalised groups are not left behind when vaccines are administered
Georgina Muñoz Pavon, Oumar Sow and Paul Divakar Namala
GCAP global Co-Chairs