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.

A year ago, 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.

Rich countries have bought more vaccine doses than they could ever use – while the rest of the world has minimal access to protection. A handful of pharmaceutical corporations dictate the manufacturing, distribution, and cost of the vaccine – they get to decide who lives and who dies- despite the fact that they created many of these vaccines with public money.

This is particularly short-sighted because epidemiologists say the virus is mutating rapidly. This means the vaccines that the rich and powerful are presently hoarding could be ineffective within a year – posing a risk to us all.

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:

Raise the ambition to vaccinate 60% of the planet. We are not going to end this pandemic by vaccinating fewer than 30% of the world’s population in the next six months. World leaders must aim higher and create a clear roadmap of how to get there. Make sure to base this roadmap on a solid manufacturing and distribution plan for all COVID-19 products and technologies. This process should be funded with fair share financing from rich nations, and fair allocation of doses.

Break the shackles of intellectual property on vaccines and COVID-19 knowledge. This will allow every nation to produce or buy vaccine doses at affordable rates. All Government leaders must support the WTO proposal by India and South Africa to temporarily waive intellectual property on Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and related technologies. They must also force pharmaceutical companies to share their COVID-19-related technology and know-how through the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool.

Make an immediate and large investment of public money into manufacturing more vaccine doses around the world. We need to see a clear plan to fund the huge increase in manufacturing of vaccines that is needed. We need to build a global distributed network to deliver these doses as global public goods to all nations. We have seen a clear failure of the market alone in ensuring enough vaccines. Therefore, governments should keep sufficient ownership of these new facilities, and work with the WHO to make sure they serve public interests first.

Provide COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests free of charge. To everyone, everywhere, allocated according to need. Prioritize frontline workers, people at higher risk, and resource-poor countries least able to save the lives of those infected with the virus. Marginalized groups should be part of these programmes. This includes refugees, prisoners, people with disabilities, and indigenous populations.

Scale up global financial support for upgrading and expanding public health systems. We can use the experience of the pandemic to create resilient, universal and equitable health systems around the world. These services should be free at the point of use, with all user fees eliminated. Universal Health Coverage is the global public good needed to respond not only 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 #PeoplesVaccine, here.

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