Vaccine Equity – Play Your Part

May 3, 2021

COVID-19 has brought into focus the shocking inequity that exists between rich and poor countries worldwide. Nowhere is this now more apparent than in the health status of populations across the developing world.

As Ireland rolls out its vaccination programme alongside other countries across the globe, millions of the most vulnerable in the poorest countries, especially frontline health workers and those living in abject poverty, have been forced to watch and wait.

The problem is two-fold: firstly, the inequality that exists between rich and poor, globally; and secondly, the fact that there simply aren’t enough vaccines being manufactured at sufficient speed to cover everybody in a timely way.

We have been here before: attempting to persuade pharmaceutical companies to make antiretroviral treatments affordable for people living with HIV, and the irreversible consequences: millions denied treatment; hundreds of thousands forced to live with acute illness; and tens of thousands left to die unnecessarily. History is repeating itself in the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in avoidable suffering and death.  

COVID-19 vaccines are being monopolised by large pharmaceutical corporations who are refusing to share the intellectual property rights, technology and know-how that could speed up affordable mass production and distribution across the world. This is despite the fact that research and development on vaccines is being paid for by taxpayers everywhere. 

You can play your part on global vaccine supply and distribution by getting involved in the following campaigns:

  • The People’s Vaccine Alliance is an advocacy campaign established by Oxfam International and supported by organisations and individuals worldwide to demand governments temporarily waive patents at the World Trade Organisation and that pharmaceutical corporations join the WHO’s COVID-19 technology access pool (C-TAP), to scale-up mass production of COVID-19 vaccine and save lives
  • ECI PetitionThis petition is a European citizens’ initiative and was established to ensure that the European Commission does everything in its power to make anti-pandemic vaccines and treatments a global public good, freely accessible to everyone 
  • Go Give One is a COVID-19 global fundraising campaign . Created by the WHO Foundation, the campaign calls on everyone, everywhere to play their part in helping to vaccinate the world. The money raised goes to an international fund called COVAX AMC, which buys COVID-19 vaccines for the world, prioritising those who need them the most in countries that cannot afford them
  • Only Together is the global campaign by the United Nations to support its call for fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines around the world. The campaign stresses the need for coordinated global action to ensure vaccines are accessible in all countries, starting with health-care workers and the most vulnerable
  • #ACTogether for #VaccinEquity This petition also created by the WHO is focused on healthworkers to ensure that within the first 100 days of 2021, vaccination of health workers and older people is underway in all countries throughout 2021 and beyond.  The call to action is to support COVAX and the ACT Accelerator 
  • The One Campaign has published realtime data on administered doses, vaccine hoarding at this link: https://www.one.org/africa/issues/covid-19-tracker/explore-vaccines/    There is also a Vaccine Access Test which ranks governments and companies on the basis of their investments and policies to support vaccine equity: https://www.one.org/international/issues/vaccine-access-test/

Get informed about the facts surrounding the debate

  • Watch this video below from Wemos, for a quick introduction 

  • ACT Accelerator

The ACT Accelerator is a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

  • CTAP

In 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) set up a platform to facilitate the voluntarily sharing of Covid-19 related patents and knowledge: the Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP).

This pool provides pharmaceutical companies the opportunity to share their patents and knowledge in return for a fair price. Several organisations are campaigning to force government intervention on CTAP forcing pharmaceutical companies to share rather than waiting for them to volunteer.

Unfortunately, no pharmaceutical company has so far shared information through C-TAP.

  • COVAX

COVAX is the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) AcceleratorCOVAX is a coordinated initiative with the goal of accelerating the development and roll out of COVID-19 vaccines around the world to support low- and middle-income countries.  It is co-led by the World Health Organization, GAVI and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and also works in partnership with UNICEF.

COVAX currently has 190 participating countries (both high- and low- and middle-income countries)  and needs more than US$2 billion to fully meet its goal of guaranteeing fair and equitable access for every country in the world by the end of 2021.

Originally, COVAX was intended to serve as a common money pot to equally distribute vaccines over the 190 participating countries regardless of the country’s ability to pay. As high-income countries decided to stock pile vaccines for themselves, COVAX is now being used as a tool to donate money to purchase vaccines for 92 low- and middle-income countries.

To date, COVAX aims to provide only 20% of the population of the participating countries with vaccines. To be able to purchase these vaccines, they have to be available first.  Pledging new funding for COVAX is critical, but more can be done to scale up vaccine access by sharing excess vaccines, transferring technology, offering voluntary licensing and waiving intellectual property rights. 

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