If we want to get out of the Covid-19 emergency, vaccines must reach everyone: let’s mobilize

Canada and Pakistan have had the same number of Covid-19 patients, about 420,000: while Canada has secured enough doses to vaccinate all its citizens nearly 5 times, in Pakistan probably only one in 10 people will be immunized by this year. At the beginning of February, 108 million people had been vaccinated around the world; among the poorest countries only Guinea was able to start vaccinations for 55 inhabitants. Just 55: I haven’t forgotten a single zero.

And if, with many uncertainties, our vaccination plans aim to achieve significant immunity by 2021, poor countries will reach the same goal no earlier than 2023. The extraordinary mobilization of the international scientific community has led to the development of some vaccines against Sars-CoV-2 in an incredibly short time. They are the result of an enormous investment of money – thanks also to over 100 billion dollars provided by governments – of skills, technology and they are also the demonstration that – in the globalized world in which we live – sharing of objectives and collaboration can bring formidable results. . Yet the approach to the pandemic as a global problem seems to have stopped there.

Rich nations, where 14% of the world’s population resides, have so far optioned 53% of the most promising vaccines: Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. And if Oxford-AstraZeneca has pledged to supply 64% of its production to developing countries, there is talk of sufficient doses to immunize at most 18% of the world population by 2022. Intellectual property rules guarantee companies monopoly of production and, consequently, high prices: those who can pay get the doses they need while many poor countries are not even able to enter into bargaining.

Most of them will receive vaccines through Covax, a redistribution initiative led by the World Health Organization, with completely inadequate timing and quantity to achieve significant immunity within a reasonable period. At the beginning of February, as I write this, Covax began distributing the first vaccines: the goal is to provide more than 330 million doses to 145 beneficiary countries by the first half of 2021. To describe this situation someone spoke of “vaccine nationalism”; Indian economist Jayati Gosh used the term “vaccine apartheid”. A much more accurate representation. Is this discrimination in access to vaccines acceptable during a pandemic that has already caused over 2.3 million deaths? It is clear that the goal of large pharmaceutical companies is not the improvement of public health, but the profit of their shareholders. A fair distribution of vaccines, however, is a matter of respect for human rights and also of foresight. If vaccinations do not proceed swiftly and widely everywhere, we risk that somewhere in the world other mutations of the virus develop which could render available vaccines ineffective.

The prolongation of the epidemic would cause hundreds of thousands more deaths, especially among the poorest and most vulnerable. To the loss of so many human lives, the effects of a huge economic crisis would also be added: according to a study commissioned by the Research Foundation of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the global economy risks losing up to 9.2 trillion dollars if governments fail to guarantee access to Covid-19 vaccines for developing countries. La “People Vaccine Alliance” e “Right2cure. No profit on the pandemic“Are coalitions of activists and international organizations – including Emergency – who have mobilized for equal access to vaccines against Covid-19. In order for the vaccine to be available to the greatest number of people, it is essential to increase production and lower prices: a result that could be achieved if the rules protecting intellectual property were – at least temporarily – suspended (as is foreseen for emergency situations. also from Article 9 of the Marrakech Agreement at the origin of the World Trade Organization), or if the pharmaceutical companies granted licenses to third-party companies.

The intervention

To solve the shortage of vaccines it is necessary to produce them under license. And quickly

They would not lose: they would only make a little less. It would not be the first time that a major international mobilization has succeeded in influencing decisions in this context. In the 1990s, antiretroviral drugs were produced in the United States at a prohibitive price for the sufferers of the global South. More than 12 million people died in Africa in 10 years from complications related to AIDS before the production of truly accessible generic treatments was reached: 100 euros a year against the previous 10 thousand. It is only thanks to the battles for generic treatments, that over 20 million patients around the world have the opportunity to be cured.

Access to the Sars-CoV2 vaccine is just the latest example of how health has increasingly become a market commodity available to the highest bidder. According to the WHO, even before the pandemic, over half of the world’s population did not have access to the care they needed. We are talking about 3 and a half billion people. Even when this pandemic is under control, we will have to continue to fight for health to remain a human right. Being cared for is a universal right and a common good, and it is convenient for society that it be protected in the interest of all: it is a public responsibility that cannot be delegated to private enterprise or to the market.


European citizens can make their voices heard and ask the Commission to make vaccines and anti-pandemic treatments accessible free of charge. Personalities from the scientific world and social organizations have given life to the European Citizens’ No Profit on Eu pandemic initiative. One million signatures need to be collected from across the EU. To join: https://noprofitonpandemic.eu/. Globally, a coalition of organizations such as Oxfam, Emergency and Frontline Aids, and personalities such as José Manuel Barroso, Joseph E. Stiglitz and Muhammad Yunus has mobilized to guarantee “vaccines for everyone in every part of the world”. The People Vaccine Alliance calls on governments and the pharmaceutical industry to suspend patents on vaccines, ensure that they are sold at an affordable price in all countries of the world. To follow the campaign: https://peoplesvaccine.org/

Source: L'Espresso – News, inchieste e approfondimenti Espresso by espresso.repubblica.it.

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