A COVID-19 People’s Vaccine is a global emergency
Today’s humanity is under siege from COVID-19 pandemic, a development which has brought far reaching social and economic challenges to each and every country across the globe. The 11th of March 2020, was the day the World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 global health challenge a pandemic.
COVID-19 pandemic is threatening us all. No individual, community or country can deal with this crisis alone. To beat the pandemic and avert harm to the lives of billions we must work together. We need to act across all countries and for every person. Fighting for some but not others is not an option. It only fuels risk for us all.
The united call by World Leaders in 2020 for a people’s vaccine
Nine months ago, more than 140 world leaders, experts and elders made an unprecedented call for guarantees that COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics, tests and treatments will be provided free of charge to everyone, everywhere.
“Billions of people today await a vaccine that is our best hope of ending this pandemic,” said Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa at the June meeting. “As the countries of Africa, we are resolute that the COVID-19 vaccine must be patent-free, rapidly made and distributed, and free for all. All the science must be shared between governments. Nobody should be pushed to the back of the vaccine queue because of where they live or what they earn.”
“We must work together to beat this virus. We must pool all the knowledge, experience and resources at our disposal for the good of all humanity,” said Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan. “No leader can rest easy until every individual in every nation is able to rapidly access a vaccine free of charge.”
The world leaders meeting resulted in a letter, coordinated by UNAIDS and Oxfam, warning that the world cannot afford monopolies and competition to stand in the way of the universal need to save lives.
Humanity still stands at risk of the COVID-19
According to World Health Organisation as of 3 March 2021, COVID-19 had infected more than 114 million people and killed more than 2.5 million in the whole world. Each day these numbers are increasing.
12.6 million people living with HIV are not on HIV treatment, according to UNAIDS 2020. Just like HIV and AIDS, COVID-19 has a disproportionate impact on people who are already excluded. The same can be leveled against TB, a respiratory disease which is most prevalent in the developing countries and mostly affecting the poor and marginalised communities. The very people who are missing to be found and brought to treatment, stand a big chance of losing life to the raging threat of COVID-19.
At the Chatham House interaction held in United Kingdom on 26 January 2021, the UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima made it clear that 9 in 10 people in the poorest countries are set to go without a vaccine this year. She clearly indicated that, a small group of rich nations representing just 14% of the global population have bought up most of the supply of leading COVID-19 vaccine contenders until the end of 2021.
Distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine
It is critical that COVID-19 vaccines are fairly distributed around the world, and that low and middle-income countries do not miss out. Failing to do so would be a catastrophic moral failure and could lead to a profound setback to human equality.
Safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines must be treated as a global public good, and equal access seen as a fundamental human right. They need to be fairly distributed on the basis of need, and not ability to pay. The COVID-19 vaccines must be free from patents and be defined as a People's Vaccine, not a profit vaccine.
Without this equitable distribution, as wealthy countries protect themselves from the worst effects of the virus, poorer countries will be left vulnerable to new outbreaks, worsening existing poverty and inequalities.
It is the responsibility of all leaders to ensure fair access to COVID-19 vaccines around the world.
The richer countries must play their part by avoiding “vaccine nationalism” and resisting actions such as buying up the majority of the world’s vaccine supply, which will reduce access elsewhere.
The problem is not just that there is not enough money, and not just that the vaccines are being allocated unfairly. It is that there are not enough vaccines being made.
Supporting People’s Vaccine Alliance Call for Action
Humana People to People is fully supporting the call made by People’s Vaccine Alliance which seeks to ensure the following:
- Ensure the vaccine is purchased at true cost prices and provided free of charge to people.
- Prevent monopolies on vaccine and treatment production by making public funding for research and development conditional on research institutions and pharmaceutical companies freely sharing all information, data, biological material, know-how and intellectual property.
- Ensure the vaccine is sold at affordable prices: Pricing must be transparent and based on the cost of research, development and manufacturing, as well as taking into account any public funding provided.
- Implement fair allocation of the vaccine which prioritizes health workers and other at-risk groups in all countries.
- Ensure full participation of governments in developing countries as well as civil society from north and south in decision-making fora about the vaccines (and other COVID-19 technologies) and ensure transparency and accountability of all decisions.
Our best chance of all staying safe from COVID-19 is to have vaccines, tests and treatments that are available for all.