Monday, June 20, 2022

Covid Vaccine Apartheid Continues

 The Rich Prevail Over the Poor

The 164-member World Trade Organization (WTO) has implicitly rubber-stamped the widely-condemned policy of “vaccine apartheid” which has discriminated against the world’s poorer nations, mostly in Africa and Asia, depriving them of any wide-ranging intellectual property rights.

Max Lawson, Co-Chair of the People’s Vaccine Alliance and Head of Inequality Policy at Oxfam, said at the conclusion of the WTO’s ministerial meeting last week: “The conduct of rich countries at the WTO has been utterly shameful. The European Union has blocked anything that resembles a meaningful intellectual property waiver. The UK and Switzerland have used negotiations to twist the knife and make any text even worse. And the US has sat silently in negotiations with red lines designed to limit the impact of any agreement.”

 This so-called compromise, he argued, largely reiterates developing countries’ existing rights to override patents in certain circumstances. And it tries to restrict even that limited right to countries which do not already have capacity to produce COVID-19 vaccines.Lawson added, “This is absolutely not the broad intellectual property waiver the world desperately needs to ensure access to vaccines and treatments for everyone, everywhere. The EU, UK, US, and Switzerland blocked that text.”

“Put simply, it is a technocratic fudge aimed at saving reputations, not lives.”

Ben Phillips, author of ‘How to Fight Inequality’ explained that rich countries had acted to protect the monopolies of big pharmaceutical companies to determine production levels of pandemic-ending medicines.

In doing so, he said “they are not only causing deaths in developing countries, they are causing deaths in their own countries’ too. It’s not Northern interests vs Southern interests. It’s a handful of oligarchs who cannot share vs 8 billion people who want to be safe from pandemics.”

“Almost everyone in every country in the world”, he said, “would be better off if big pharmaceutical companies made slightly less obscene profits so that enough doses of pandemic-ending medicines could be made by multiple producers across the world to reach everyone who needs them on time."

"The Covid-19 crisis has exposed the rot of the system of monopolies over production of vital medicines. Everyone can see it, and it will fall. How quickly it falls is the only question left. People are organizing nationally and internationally and they won’t let this pass again,” Phillips declared.

Mandeep S. Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organizations (CSOs), said, “unequal access to vaccines is a global scandal that flies in the face of the economic, social and technological progress we claim to have made as humanity”. He pointed out that CSOs around the world have long called for equity in health care and an end to excessive profiteering by the pharmaceutical industry at the expense of people’s well-being.

The Battle for Covid-19 Vaccines: the Rich Prevail Over the Poor | Inter Press Service (

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