Covid deaths: World leaders say ‘never again’ to vaccine inequality

New Delhi, March 11 (IANS) A group of more than 190 current and former world leaders, Nobel laureates, civil society organisations, faith leaders, and health experts in an open letter called on governments to “never again” allow “profiteering and nationalism” to come before the needs of humanity, as it did during the Covid-19 pandemic.

They condemned the vaccine inequality which led to one preventable death every 24 seconds in the first year of the Covid vaccine rollout alone, according to a study published in the Lancet.

It is “a scar on the world’s conscience” that those lives were not saved, the signatories said.

Covid-19 countermeasures were developed and delivered with enormous public funding. Therefore, they are “the people’s vaccines, the people’s tests, and the people’s treatments”, they said.

But instead of distributing Covid-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments based on need, pharmaceutical companies sold doses first to the “richest countries with the deepest pockets”, they lamented.

Covid-19 has killed more than 6.8 million people globally, according to Johns Hopkins University — a figure widely thought to be an underestimate.

The letter called on world leaders to pledge that “never again will the lives of people in wealthy countries be prioritised over the lives of people in the global South. Never again will publicly funded science be locked behind private monopolies. Never again will a company’s desire to make extraordinary profits come before the needs of humanity.”

“In the Covid-19 pandemic, those of us in low and middle-income countries were pushed to the back of the line for vaccines and denied access to the benefits of new technologies. Three years on, we must say anever again’ to this injustice that has undermined the safety of people in every country,” said Jose Ramos-Horta, President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, in the open letter.

“These past three years should act as a warning for future pandemics. We need a return to genuine cooperation between nations in our preparation and response to global threats. That requires a Pandemic Accord rooted in equity and human rights, which places the needs of humanity above the commercial interests of a handful of companies,a added Ban Ki-Moon, Eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Further, to address the intellectual property barriers that prevent the sharing of scientific knowledge and technology, they called on governments to act at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to ease patents on Covid-19 tests and treatments.

Governments should support and invest in public research, development, and manufacturing capacity, particularly in the Global South, the leaders said.

They call on governments to provide “political, financial, and technical support” for the WHO’s mRNA Technology Transfer Hub project, which is sharing mRNA technology with producers in 15 low and middle-income countries.

The letter co-ordinated by People’s Vaccine Alliance — a coalition of over 100 organisations — will be sent to all governments via their representatives in Geneva.



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