Doctors for Vaccine Equity aim to highlight the vast inequities in COVID-19 vaccine access worldwide. We are calling for the Irish government to support the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations on global vaccine equity including the following actions:
Support the TRIPS waiver to allow vaccine production in the Global South as a sustainable solution
Facilitate urgent global redistribution of current vaccine supplies and commit to rational purchasing to avoid vaccine hoarding and wastage
Ensure that any strategy for booster vaccines is ethical within a global context
We are seeking colleagues within the Irish medical community to help us show the strength of support for these aims by signing above at the “Show Your Support” button. Please note that your name will appear on our site within 3-5 days of submission.
Doctors for Vaccine Equity aims to bring together doctors in Ireland who wish to support equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines. We are a partner group of the People’s Vaccine Alliance of Ireland and the Irish Global Health Network and are guided by the recommendations of the World Health Organisation. The group welcomes support from all doctors who share its objectives.
The people of Ireland have achieved incredible vaccination rates. This has greatly reduced virus transmission, illness and death, and has allowed for the reopening of society. This national success however is falsely reassuring, as the share of people who have completed the primary vaccination course is dramatically lower in low-and middle-income countries. Ongoing high levels of transmission among unvaccinated populations risks viral mutation and the emergence of vaccine resistant strains which would put the entire global vaccine programme in jeopardy.
Global access to COVID-19 vaccines is essential in order to bring the pandemic to an end. The current shameful vaccine inequity has been described as the single biggest moral and scientific failure of the crisis, and that is why we as doctors in Ireland are coming together to advocate for change.
At present, vaccine production remains in the control of a handful of pharmaceutical companies whose priority is to sell vaccines to countries in the Global North. It is only by facilitating generic production that the geographical spread of manufacturing capacity and an adequate vaccine supply can be guaranteed. For this to come about Ireland must advocate for the support of the TRIPS (Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver at EU level.
The TRIPS waiver is a motion put to the World Trade Organization to temporarily waive intellectual property rights for health technologies needed to prevent, contain, or treat COVID-19, and complements the WHO COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP). This waiver would remain in place “until widespread vaccination is in place globally, and the majority of the world’s population has developed immunity.” Details of the TRIPS waiver are outlined here and here.
It is an ethical imperative to avoid vaccine hoarding and vaccine waste. Ireland and the EU must not repeat the mistakes of the past, and must commit to rational purchasing of vaccines and avoiding hoarding, especially looking to the future when newer variant-specific or pan coronavirus vaccines may come on the market. The vaccine procurement strategy of the E.U and Ireland should be transparent, based on clinical need and designed to avoid wastage of doses.
It is important to note that while charitable donations towards vaccine purchase can be helpful in the short-term, they do not address the root causes of vaccine inequity and will not adequately increase the supply of vaccines. A recent report by Oxfam entitled ‘A dose of reality’ has shown that vaccine donations delivered have fallen well short of doses pledged. Any donations should be reported in terms of doses delivered and not pledged. We should avoid the approach of donating surplus or ‘left-over’ vaccines. This is problematic for many reasons, including local confidence in vaccine programs in the Global South. Expiry dates of donated vaccines should be reported.
The Omicron variant has prompted some countries to expand booster doses and repeat booster doses to large portions of their populations, despite the fact that vaccination rates remain worryingly low in low-income countries. More than a year after the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines, many healthcare workers and clinically vulnerable people in the Global South, including elderly and immunosuppressed, still do not have access to vaccines. It is vital that we remain cognisant of the fact that the primary aim of COVID-19 vaccination is to prevent severe disease and death. Ireland should support a global strategy which looks to use the available vaccination supply to most effectively reduce mortality in the first instance. As a global community, we are currently placing value on some lives more than others and this must stop. We are advocating that everyone should have access to vaccines that afford them protection against COVID-19.
WHAT HAVE WE DONE SO FAR?
Since forming in September 2021, we have made good progress in raising awareness of these issues and petitioning decision makers:
- Over 350 doctors have signed our mission statement so far. We also partnered with members of the scientific community who have also been signing their support. Both the DVEand scientific communitypetitions are still open to sign.
- Our message has been formally supported by a range of healthcare and academic institutions including: The Irish Medical Organisation, The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, The Irish Society of Immunology, The Irish Society of Specialists in Public Health, The Irish Society of Infectious Diseases, The Irish Society of Clinical Microbiologists, UCD school of Medicine, University of Limerick School of Medicine, St James’s Hospital, and The Irish Scientific Advisory Group
- We held a seminar entitled Real Solutions for Vaccine Equity; supported by leading academics and scientists in Ireland https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpYO4Ab-qBI4
- We were represented at an Oireachtas Committee hearing at the Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment. Here is the recording: Waiver of intellectual property protection in the context of the World Trade Organisation Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights as it relates to COVID-19 vaccines
- We have had coverage in the national media including: RTÉ news television coverage– Doctors in Ireland and Africa are calling for the Irish Government to push for greater access to vaccines for Africa, RCSI on morning Ireland, IT coverage of Real Solutions for Vaccine Equity webinar, Irish Times Opinion Editorial, Irish examiner article, Editorial in the Medical Independent, TV interview for TG4
- We supported a multi-group protest outside the Dáil.
- We were referenced during themotion to support the TRIPS waiver in the Seanad, which was passed unanimously.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Email your TD
- Click ‘sign your support’ above if you are a doctor working in Ireland
- Follow @GiveEvery1aShot on twitter and amplify the message
- Email us at email@example.com if you are interested in becoming more involved in the campaign
More information can be found on the People’s Vaccine Alliance of Ireland website.
Dr. Ciara Conlan
Registrar in Medical Virology, Dublin
Dr Kieran Harkin
GP Inchicore Family Doctors and Inclusion Health Service, Dublin 8
Dr Christine Kelly
Consultant in Infectious Diseases, Dublin
Professor Susan Smith,
GP Inchicore Family Doctors, Dublin 8 and Professor of Primary Care Medicine, RCSI