5 Steps to End Vaccine Apartheid
As you read this, governments and corporations are failing to make what should be the easiest possible choice: whether to save millions of lives by providing equal access to the COVID-19 vaccines.
Previously, the barrier to beating this cruel disease was science. Today it is inequality. We have the ability to vaccinate the world and to end this pandemic. But instead, rich countries are hoarding vaccines and protecting the profits of their pharmaceutical corporations instead of saving lives.
Insufficient vaccine supply combined with rich country hoarding of doses mean most people in developing countries faces this killer disease with minimal access to protection. While public money funded the vaccine research, development and manufacturing, pharmaceutical corporations have a monopoly on how many doses are produced, who gets them and what price they pay. These corporations get to decide who lives and who dies.
This is entirely self-defeating. The virus is mutating all the time. The Omicron variant, which emerged in late 2021, has reduced the effectiveness of vaccines. Although vaccines continue to protect against severe disease and hospitalisation, there is no guarantee this will continue in the face of future variants. At the same time, the cost to the global economy of failing to vaccinate the world is estimated to be $9 trillion dollars.
Elected officials have the chance right now to end vaccine apartheid and save millions of lives.
HERE ARE THE FIVE STEPS THEY NEED TO TAKE TO MAKE A #PEOPLESVACCINE A REALITY:
Urgently agree and implement a global roadmap to deliver the WHO goal of fully vaccinating 70% of people by mid-2022. The roadmap should be based on a comprehensive global manufacturing and distribution plan for the vaccines and all COVID-19 products and technologies, fully funded with fair share financing from rich nations, and fair allocation of doses. It must guarantee vaccines of sufficient number to fully vaccinate 70% of people in all countries by the mid-2022, including offering the vaccine to 100% of healthworkers in Low-Middle-Income Countries (LMICs), as well prioritising the most vulnerable and hard to reach groups.
Maximise the production of safe and effective vaccines and other COVID-19 products by suspending relevant intellectual property rules and ensuring the mandatory pooling of all COVID-19 related knowledge, data and technologies so that any nation can produce or buy sufficient and affordable doses of vaccines, treatments and tests.
Two key actions to take are:
1) Endorse and support the World Health Organisation COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) and regional mRNA hubs, to facilitate sharing vaccine, tests and treatments technologies, know-how and intellectual property, and use all policy and legal tools available to compel pharmaceutical corporations to contribute to them.
2) Immediately support the proposal by India and South Africa at the World Trade Organisation to temporarily waive relevant intellectual property rules under the Agreement of Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) for COVID-19 vaccines and other technologies.
Invest public funding now in a rapid and massive increase in vaccine manufacturing as well as research and development (R&D) capacity to build a global distributed network capable of and governed to deliver affordable vaccines as global public goods to all nations. All countries must invest in the creation of regional R&D and manufacturing hubs with priority given to new capacity in developing countries. The African Union for example has set a target that it will manufacture 60% of its own vaccines. This financing should be based on a systemof fair share burden sharing. This should include and build on the new innovations in vaccine technology supercharged by the pandemic such as mRNA, and guarantee the long-term public investment needed to develop and maintain the human capital and physical manufacturing infrastructure required to meet needs now and for future pandemics.
Due to the clear failure of the market alone in ensuring enough vaccines, governments
should retain sufficient ownership of these new facilities and work in partnership with the WHO, to ensure their strategic direction and output serves public interest first.
Ensure COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests are sold to governments and institutions at a price as close to the true cost as possible, provided free of charge to everyone, everywhere, and allocated according to need.
Vaccines are global public goods and must be provided free of charge to people. They must also be sold to all governments and international institutions at a price as close to the ‘true cost’ as possible.
Governments should use all policy and legal tools possible to drive down the price of vaccines, tests and treatments to reflect ‘true cost’ and public funding levels to maximise affordability and secure the lowest possible price. Any profiteering from the pandemic by Pharmaceutical firms should not be tolerated, and governments should act fast to apply punitive measures to any company that is found to be profiteering.
Vaccine distribution plans should follow the WHO Equitable Allocation Framework with priority given to frontline workers, people at risk and resource-poor countries with the least capacity to save lives. Allocation plans should be in the public domain and open to consultation and scrutiny and include all people regardless of nationality, residency, or identity. Marginalised groups should be part of the national vaccination programmes including refugees, prisoners, people with disabilities and indigenous populations.
Rich countries must contribute a proportion of doses secured from bilateral deals to COVAX, free of charge and in adherence to the ‘Principles for sharing COVID-19 vaccine doses with COVAX’.
Scale up sustainable investment in public health systems. Governments should urgently scale up national and global financial support for upgrading and expanding public health systems especially primary health care and for the millions of additional health workers needed for a successful vaccine roll out and for delivering everybody’s right to health care. Health services should be free at the point of use, and all user fees eliminated.
Sustained financing of healthcare is urgently needed to ensure global security from emerging diseases and realise the goal of Universal Health Coverage and achieve the right to health for all. We must use the experience of the pandemic to transform health systems across the world – resilient, universal and equitable health systems are a global public good needed to respond to emergencies but also to protect and save lives every day.
It’s not every day you get to decide to save the world, but that is the choice facing governments and corporations right now. By agreeing to take these five clear steps, they have the chance to turn this crisis around.
For more detail, you can read our full 5 Step Plan for a People’s Vaccine Manifesto via the link below.