Third World Network writes to Developed Countries.
More than 200 non-governmental organizations and trade unions from developing countries are struggling to secure COVID-19 vaccines as the pandemic devastates our communities and economies. Writing a letter the Third World Network urges governments in developed countries to withdraw their opposition and to support the proposal currently on the table at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive certain TRIPS obligations for the prevention, treatment, and containment of COVID-19.
A proposal was presented by India and South Africa on October 2, 2020. This proposal has gained the support and co-sponsorship of developing countries from around the world. The vast majority of developing countries as well as international organizations including the World Health Organization, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), UNITAID, and representatives of civil society, trade unions, human rights experts and academia have expressed their support for the proposed waiver.
Since the start of the pandemic, some developed countries have expressed support for equitable and affordable access to all effective and safe vaccines, diagnostics, treatments, and other health technologies. And yet your governments continue to obstruct and oppose the waiver proposal, which seeks to remove relevant intellectual property monopolies so that production of COVID-19 medical products may be expanded and diversified globally.
More than a year into the pandemic, severe shortages of medical products including test kits, protective equipment, ventilators, therapeutics and medical devices persist in many countries, hampering prevention, treatment and containment of COVID-19.
The disparity in access to vaccines is especially shocking. High-income countries, which constitute just 16% of the world population have claimed 4.2 billion doses, compared to 2.5 billion doses by 84% of
the world population. Many of these rich countries have purchased enough doses to vaccinate their population several times. According to WHO, more than three quarters of the vaccinations are in just 10 countries. The Africa Union Chair, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has pointed out the “painful irony” of clinical trials being conducted on the continent, which is now struggling to gain access to supply.
Global vaccine supply is presently dependent on a few pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna, yet they are unable to meet global demand, even for rich
countries. This situation is unsustainable and unacceptable. In a global health emergency in which substantial amounts of public funding have driven the research and development, it is simply unconscionable that these few pharmaceutical companies will benefit from their intellectual property monopolies while the world is suffering.
Third World Network also stresses that the COVAX facility will only make 2 billion doses available by the end of 2021, representing a mere fraction of the needs of 6.4 billion people in developing countries.
There is an urgent need to expand and diversify supply options and engage manufacturers from across the world in ramping up vaccine production. For this to happen, intellectual property barriers must be removed. The TRIPS Waiver is the best way to do this, allowing manufacturers and governments the freedom to act to meet the global need for COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.
Your country’s opposition to the adoption of the waiver is simply indefensible. It is contributing to deepening the global crises of inequality. This opposition is also “self-defeating”. The recent emergence of new variants has shown that so long as large parts of the world populations, especially vulnerable communities remain unprotected, new and more resistant virus mutations are likely to occur, threatening to prolong the pandemic, and continuing to further devastate livelihoods, communities and economies, worldwide, including in Norway.
The COVID-19 pandemic is more than a health crisis; it is an economic crisis, a humanitarian crisis, and a human rights crisis that requires compassion and global solidarity. We need urgent unprecedented action by world leaders to contain the virus globally. We need manufacturers from every continent, in developing countries, wherever possible, engaged in production, if we are to overcome this pandemic.
“We strongly urge you to unconditionally support the proposal to waive certain TRIPS obligations for the prevention, treatment and containment of COVID-19 and to immediately stop obstructing its adoption.” Third World Network stresses.