Health activists, academics, and civil society from the global north call on our governments to join the world in supporting the TRIPS waiver proposal to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines across the globe.
“The intellectual property (IP) waiver proposal aims to allow countries to choose not to enforce, apply or implement patents and other exclusivities that could impede the production and supply of COVID-19 medical tools, until global herd immunity is reached. If adopted, the waiver would send a crucial signal to potential manufacturers that they can start producing needed COVID-19 medical tools without fear of being blocked by patents or other monopolies.” –Doctors Without Borders
March 11 will mark one year since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 a pandemic, with global impact and requiring global response. However, notwithstanding rhetoric around a shared experience and the need for collective mobilization, we barely see the global solidarity and commitment necessary to address this pandemic. With regard to COVID-19 treatments and health technologies, including vaccines, wealthy countries have taken nationalistic approaches, securing priority access and hoarding vaccines for their own populations at the expense of the health of everyone.
Only global solidarity can meet the current challenge–putting human rights and people’s health and lives at the center of the response. We call on our governments to join with South Africa, India and over 100 other countries in supporting the TRIPS waiver proposal currently before the WTO. The proposal calls for the temporary suspension of the patent system for Covid-19 products until worldwide immunity is achieved. This proposal would give all countries in the world the ability to decide whether to ignore some of the provisions of intellectual property law set out in the TRIPS Agreement, to save lives without fear of sanctions. Importantly, it would allow for the necessary expansion and diversification in vaccine supply, allowing manufacturers worldwide to ramp up vaccine production.
The possibility of such a waiver–first urged by public-interest civil society groups seeking universal access to life-saving HIV-AIDS treatment and validated by the 2001 Doha Declaration–called for the suspension of WTO patent rules (the TRIPS agreement) in the face of public health emergencies. A pandemic–or as WHO’s International Health Regulations define it: a public health emergency of international concern–is precisely the kind of situation that demands the exercise of such a waiver.
COVID-19 vaccine development has required the investment of billions in public funds as well as the contributions of volunteers around the world–in the global north and south–who participated in clinical trials to ensure their safety and efficacy. Given this collective effort, COVID-19 vaccines should be a global public good. However, governments in high-income countries–even though they subsidized the research–have prioritized the financial interests of pharmaceutical companies, protecting their intellectual property (IP) and profits over the health and lives of the population.
The voluntary charity and donation schemes in place, such as C-TAP and COVAX, which many of our governments have contributed to, are insufficient to ensure the rates of vaccination needed to save lives and slow the spread of the pandemic. Indeed, 9 out of 10 people in low-income countries will have to wait until 2022 or later to be vaccinated while rich countries have secured enough vaccines to vaccinate their populations three times over. Some countries, such as Canada, have not only bought or pre-ordered enough vaccines to vaccinate the population five times over through private deals, but are taking COVAX stocks BEFORE low-income countries get access to them.
The opposition of the European Union, the United States, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, Norway, Australia, and other rich countries to this proposal will only prolong the pandemic and the multiple accompanying crises–economic, social, public health. In a moment when urgent access to all tools for preventive, testing, containment and treatment options is imperative, this opposition is untenable,self-defeating, and downright immoral.
We demand that our governments cease blocking the proposal from South Africa and India. The time is now to stop vaccine nationalism, private profiteering, and stand in solidarity with the world for health equity and human rights.
Take action now!
In this pandemic, no one is safe until everyone is safe.
We must demand that our governments support the TRIPS waiver proposal to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines everywhere.
Contact your government officials to tell them to stop blocking the proposal.
Write to the following authorities to express your position on this issue:
Hon Simon Birmingham
Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment
Hon Marise Payne
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Contact ministers of trade, ministers of health and your national-level representatives to demand that they urge the European Commission to stop blocking the waiver.
The amandla.mobi team in South Africa asks everyone to send a message to the German Ambassador to South Africa.
Read UAEM Europe’s letter to the European Commission and European Parliament to support the TRIPS waiver proposal.
Japanese civil society urged its government to support the TRIPS waiver in an official dialogue on 17 February.
Express your request for the government to release the protection of intellectual property rights to:
Prime Minister SUGA Yoshihide
Finance Minister ASO Taro
Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry KAJIYAMA Hiroshi
See the following engagement from civil society organizations:
Collective public letters sent to government officials and their replies
A public letter to the government from Korean Federation Medical Activist Groups (KFHR) for Human Rights
Sign this petition to urge Biden to reverse the previous administration’s deadly obstruction of global COVID-19 vaccine access.
Contact your members of Congress to demand that they support the TRIPS waiver proposal.
People’s Health Movement country circles in Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the PHM-Europe region initiated this statement. PHM friends and partners from across the globe join in this urgent call to governments, overwhelmingly in rich countries, that are blocking equitable access to vaccines worldwide by upholding patent monopolies on COVID-19 vaccines and other medical tools.
Africa Japan Forum, Japan
Akcja Socjalistyczna, Poland
Association of Physician for Humanism, Republic of Korea (South)
Association Marocaine des Droits Humains
Cancer Alliance, South Africa
Centre for Health Science and Law (CHSL), Canada
Centro Internazionale Crocevia, Italy
COMPASS (Community Medicine Practitioners and Advocates Association), Philippines
Damien Foundation, Belgium
“Equal Health and Medical Access on COVID-19 for All!” Japan Network
Fédération Générale du Travail de Belgique – Algemeen Belgisch Vakverbond, Belgium
Forum Gauche Ecoliogie, Belgium
Health Action International Asia Pacific
I.C. Médicament-Santé, France
Intersindical Valenciana, Spain
Just Doing It, South Africa
Left Ecological Forum, Belgium
Maison médicale Saint Léonard, Belgium
Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA), France
Organisation for Workers’ Initiative and Democratization, Croatia
Pacific Asia Resource Center (PARC), Japan
People’s Health Institute (PHI), South Korea (Republic of Korea)
People’s Health Movement–Australia
People’s Health Movement–Japan
Plataforma Navarra de Salud /Nafarroako Osasun Plataforma, Spain
Progressive Doctors, United States/Global
Representing Uganda Social Workers, Uganda
Services for the Health in Asian ＆ African Regions (SHARE), Japan
Shoreham Working Group, Australia
Social Action for Community and Development (SACD), Cambodia
Society of Development and Care, Kenya
Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) Europe