Vaccine booster programme a “slap in the face” to global south
Date: 14 September 2021
- As WTO meets, world leaders pile pressure on Germany while UK eats up more vaccine doses
Global Justice Now has called the government’s decision to offer a third vaccine to all over-50s in the UK “a disgrace”, while people in low and middle-income countries struggle to access a first dose.
It comes as more than 140 former world leaders and Nobel laureates, including Gordon Brown, Francois Hollande, Mary Robinson, and Helen Clark intervene in the German election, calling on the next Chancellor to support an intellectual property waiver at the WTO.
Global Justice Now has condemned the UK for pushing low and middle-income countries “to the back of the queue” while hoarding the world’s limited stocks of vaccines.
The group says that ministers have “an opportunity to heal the great vaccine divide” today, as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) meets to discuss waiving intellectual property on Covid-19 vaccines and treatments. Failing to support the waiver would be “yet another blow to international vaccination efforts” from the UK.
The British and German governments have so far blocked the waiver at the WTO, first proposed by South Africa and India last October, despite pleas from low and middle-income countries and support from countries including the United States and France.
The head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, supports a waiver and has called on wealthy countries with large supplies of coronavirus vaccines to refrain from offering booster shots through the end of the year, expanding an earlier request that has been largely ignored.
Epidemiologists have warned that global vaccine inequality threatens to undermine our current generation of vaccines, while a report from the Wellcome Trust and Institute for Government warned that virus mutations will “chip away” at the protection offered by vaccines.
Pharmaceutical companies have boycotted the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), a patent pool intended to share vaccine technology and know-how with safe manufacturers to maximise global vaccine production.
Nick Dearden, Director of Global Justice Now, said:
“This announcement is a slap in the face to the billions of people living in countries that cannot access first shots, let alone a third. The UK has persistently pushed low and middle-income countries to the back of the queue, hoarding the world’s limited stocks of vaccines for ourselves. Taking even more of them, while unvaccinated people in the global south die by the thousand, is a disgrace.
“The real scandal is that this doesn’t need to be a choice – we could be producing far more vaccines if only the British government would stop putting Big Pharma profit ahead of lives around the world
“Today, at the World Trade Organisation, ministers have an opportunity to heal the great vaccine divide by supporting efforts to waive intellectual property on Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, which will radically upscale global vaccine production. If the UK continues to block the waiver, it will be yet another blow to international vaccination efforts.”
Notes for editors
Gordon Brown and more than 140 former world leaders and Nobel laureates wrote to candidates to be Germany’s next Chancellor, calling for the country to support an intellectual property waiver on Covid-19 vaccines and treatments
Full letter and list of signatories: https://peoplesvaccinealliance.medium.com/former-heads-of-state-and-nobel-laureates-call-on-candidates-for-german-chancellor-to-waive-655daad6bf52
Press release: https://www.globaljustice.org.uk/news/more-than-140-former-heads-of-state-and-nobel-laureates-call-on-candidates-for-german-chancellor-to-waive-intellectual-property-rules-for-covid-vaccines/
The World Trade Association’s (WTO) trade-related aspects of intellectual property (TRIPS) council meets informally today: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/intel6_e.htm
In a survey, two-thirds of epidemiologists warned mutations could render current COVID vaccines ineffective in a year or less: https://www.oxfam.org/en/press-releases/two-thirds-epidemiologists-warn-mutations-could-render-current-covid-vaccines
A report from the Wellcome Trust and Institute for Government warned that virus mutations will “chip away” at the protection offered by vaccines. https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/tackling-covid-long-term.pdf
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that rich countries with large supplies of coronavirus vaccines should refrain from offering booster shots through the end of the year and make the doses available for poorer countries: https://apnews.com/article/business-health-coronavirus-pandemic-united-nations-world-health-organization-6384ff91c399679824311ac26e3c768a