130+ World Leaders, Nobel Laureates, Scientists Call for End to Vaccine Patents

Marking the two-year anniversary of the World Health Organization’s official Covid-19 pandemic declaration, more than 130 current and former world leaders, Nobel laureates, scientists, and humanitarians published an open letter Friday imploring rich countries to finally end their obstruction of a proposed patent waiver and share key vaccine technology with the world.

“The European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland continue to block the lifting of intellectual property rules which would enable the redistribution and scale-up of Covid-19 vaccines, test, and treatment manufacturing in the Global South,” reads the new letter, which was signed by the ex-leaders of more than 40 countries — including Malawi’s former president Joyce Banda — and prominent human rights advocates, from UNAIDS executive director Winnie Byanyima to former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Released before major global demonstrationsIn a letter to South Africa and India, they argue that a patent waiver would be a good way to speed up production of coronavirus vaccinations. This is in commemoration of the terrible pandemic anniversary.

Global vaccine production is largely controlled by the pharmaceutical companies. resisted calls to share their publicly funded technology, leaving poor nations to rely on charity for their supply of shots — an imbalance that has proved disastrous. Earlier this week, Moderna’s billionaire CEO Stéphane Bancel saidWorking with a key WHO technology transfer hub in South Africa that’s attempting to make its own mRNA shot would not be a “good use of our time.”

In their open letter on Friday, the campaigners argued that the current approach to global vaccinations — under which profit-seeking companies have the “the power to decide who lives and who dies” — is “immoral, entirely self-defeating, and also an ethical, economic, and epidemiological failure”:

“We appeal to world leaders to end this strategy of counter-productive nationalism and of protecting pharmaceutical monopolies and to finally act with international solidarity,” the letter reads. “Now is the time to renew the commitments made at the founding of the World Health Organization, where all states agreed to deliver “the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being.”

The letter’s signatories called on governments around the world to take five specific steps:

  1. It is urgent that you agree to implement a global roadmap in order to achieve the WHO goal of fully vaccination of 70% of people by mid-2022. Also, ensure equitable, timely, and equitable worldwide access to Covid-19 vaccines, tests, and other medical technology, including the next generation of safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines.
  2. Maximize production of safe and effective vaccines as well as other Covid-19 products. The relevant intellectual property rules are suspended and mandatory pooling of all Covid-19-related knowledge, data and technologies is required. This ensures that every nation can produce and buy sufficient and reasonable doses of vaccines, treatment, and tests.
  3. Invest public funding now in a rapid and massive increase in vaccine manufacturing as well as research and development (R&D) capacity to build a global distributed network capable of and governed to deliver affordable vaccines as global public goods to all nations.
  4. Make Covid-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments available to government and institutional officials at a price that is as close to the real cost as possible. All are free and open to everyone.
  5. Increase sustainable investment in public-health systems to ensure that governments of low and middle-income countries have the resources they need to fight for lives and to invest in them. These investments will reap dividends in global economies and help to reverse the global Covid-19 epidemic.

“Every life lost now to vaccine apartheid is avoidable,” the letter concludes. “Only a People’s Vaccine — based on the principles of equity and solidarity — can protect all of humanity and create a fairer, safer, more prosperous world.”

While countries around the world have lifted coronavirus-related restrictions on public health, Covid-19 continues its devastating impact, killing nearly 7,000 people per day. The majority of these deaths are in poor countries. According to new research by the People’s Vaccine Alliance, the coronavirus death toll is four times higher in lower-income countries than in rich nations.

Pharmaceutical companies continue to reap huge profits from vaccines that were created with the support massive infusions public money. Oxfam International estimatesPfizer, a U.S.-based pharmaceutical company, makes more than $1 million per hour from its vaccine. relies on government-developed technology.

“Let us be clear: this pandemic is far from over in Africa and across the world,” said Banda, who served as Malawi’s president from 2012 to 2014. “We are seeing, with each day, thousands of avoidable deaths. We are seeing girls and women being affected by the pandemic in adisproportionate way through lost education opportunities, domestic violence, economic hardship, and other forms of violence. We must recapture the spirit of solidarity to end the suffering and create a better future.”

“That starts now,” she continued, “with ending these callous pharmaceutical monopolies on Covid-19 vaccines, so Africa and the world can tackle this crisis and the next.”

According to the latest figures from Our World in Data, only 13.7% of low-income people have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine. The WHO’s head recently warned that almost 90 countries are not on track for fully vaccinating 70% of their population by July 2022.

Millions have died from Covid-19 since South Africa, India and the World Trade Organization (WTO) introduced their patent waiver proposal. The governments of rich countries have been unable to move forward. underminedNegotiations that last more than a year

While European countries — including Germany and the United Kingdom — have led opposition to the patent waiver, the United States has been accused of taking a passive stance at WTO talks despite endorsing a waiverIn May. A former WHO official recently spoke out. arguedFor perpetuating deadly vaccine inequities, rich countries should be brought before the International Criminal Court.

“Rich country leaders are protecting pharmaceutical monopolies on Covid-19 vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics over the health and lives of billions of people,” Ban, who led the U.N. from 2007 to 2016, said in a statement Friday. “And we can only imagine how damaging a new profoundly lethal variant could be for everyone on the planet. This is why this historic test of multilateralism is important. It truly affects us all.”

“If world leaders can’t rise to the challenge of vaccine equity,” Ban warned, “they diminish hope that they will rise to the existential challenge of tackling the climate crisis.”