G7 & EU Must Put Lives before Profits and ‘Vaccinate Our World’ Now!

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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Vaccinate our world campaign.

This article is part of our special report Reshaping global health after COVID-19.

After more than a year blanketed by the pandemic—communities, economies, and health systems in the European Union and beyond continue to be devastated. It is all too clear that the world is in desperate need of an immediate and novel call-to-action to have a real chance at overcoming COVID-19. 

In our continued advocacy for global vaccine equity, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) calls on the governments of the Group of Seven (G7) and European Union (EU) to do everything necessary to ‘Vaccinate Our World‘ by supporting the current proposal at the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property (IP) protections on all COVID-19 vaccines and technologies. 

If there are any countries with COVID-19 and no access to vaccines, then all countries are in danger. Of the nearly 2 billion vaccine doses administered worldwide as of June 1, 85% were given in wealthy nations. Low-income countries received a mere 0.3%, which puts the entire global community at risk of contracting emerging mutant variants of COVID-19. 

With every COVID-19 death now preventable, it is simply unacceptable that many developing countries will not have access to lifesaving vaccines until 2023. The world can boost vaccine production, but generic manufacturers need the requisite knowledge to ramp up production. Key nations, including the US, China, and Russia, have recently voiced support for an IP waiver; however, other wealthy nations – namely remaining holdout countries from the G7 and EU – must follow suit if the world is to produce sufficient vaccine quantities to ‘Vaccinate Our World.’

While the pharmaceutical industry has proven that it can respond with rapid innovation to meet the emergency demand for COVID-19 vaccines, it is disgraceful that vaccine manufacturers have decided to profit from vaccine sales, particularly when taxpayer-funded investment and research drove development. For that investment alone, the world should have access to the technology and information it needs to expand vaccine production globally, wherever the infrastructure can accommodate or be established for it. Countries from the G7 and EU have the power to help ensure that happens.

South Africa and India were the first countries to propose an IP waiver on COVID-19 vaccines, which has since gained the support of more than 100 countries. If adopted, the patent waiver could help countries worldwide overcome the legal barriers preventing them from producing COVID-19 vaccines and treatments and put the world on the best course to defeat the pandemic.

AHF, the world’s largest HIV/AIDS care and treatment provider to more than 1.5 million clients in 45 countries, has been on the frontlines of the battle against HIV/AIDS for more than 30 years. We fought through the early days of that pandemic when there was no treatment for HIV, and since the creation of antiretroviral therapy, we’ve advocated for free and universal access to treatment. 

People living with HIV were forced to clear numerous hurdles for more than a decade before they could access affordable, life-saving medications. The world cannot make that same mistake with COVID-19 vaccines, but it is sadly headed down that path if government leaders do not do everything necessary to ‘Vaccinate Our World.’

G7 and European Union countries must mandate that vaccine manufacturers do the right thing and prevent countless avoidable deaths by granting access to their intellectual property. The world cannot afford any further delays in getting vaccines to where they are needed most.

In addition to waiving vaccine patents, the ‘VOW’ campaign urges other significant actions to ensure we can ‘Vaccinate Our World,’ including securing $100 billion from wealthy nations and economic institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. That funding, a small price to pay to vaccinate all the world’s citizens, will help ensure the production of 7 billion vaccines within one year. The world must also promote international cooperation, not politics, as the driving force for ending the pandemic, which must start by demanding that countries be 100% transparent and accountable. 

The ‘Vaccinate Our World’ call-to-action kicked off in April with a global digital advocacy campaign and has continued with virtual media events in Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa. AHF’s Europe Bureau has also recently organized multiple public demonstrations in Belgium in front of the European Commission, European Council, and the offices of COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer Pfizer.

Visit VaccinateOurWorld.org to learn more and take the pledge to demand global vaccine equity by urging G7 and EU leaders to support the COVID-19 vaccine patents waiver.

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