The alarm from Oxfam and Emergency: vaccine donations are a failure, the G7 supports the suspension of patents
“EU member states and the Commission must listen to the European Parliament, which today voted on a resolution calling for the suspension of the protection of intellectual property rights, politically delegitimizing the initiatives previously undertaken by the European Commission.”
So Sara Albiani, Oxfam Italia global health policy advisor e Rossella Miccio, President of EMERGENCY, members from People’s Vaccine Alliance (PVA), a global coalition of organizations and activists that includes Nobel laureates, scientists and religious leaders like Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama.
Right now, the selfishness of the G7 countries is in fact the biggest obstacle to putting an end to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The inadequacy demonstrated so far by Covax and the delay of governments in adopting a final decision on the problem of inequality in access to vaccines against Covid are translating into an increase in infections in Africa that is still underestimated – added Sara Albiani, global health policy advisor of Oxfam Italia Rossella Miccio, President of EMERGENCY – According to the WHO weekly epidemiological report, while positive cases continue to decline in much of the world (Europe has seen a decline of 17% in the last seven days, and Southeast Asia as much as 30%), in 14 African countries they are constantly increasing. Uganda and Zambia reported the highest number of new cases with 137% and 191% respectively. A few days ago, Uganda reintroduced a new lockdown for 42 days to try to cope with the exponential increase in infections. “
According to PVA, the G7’s promises to vaccinate around the world by 2022 will indeed be impossible to keep if governments continue to block proposals to temporarily suspend patents and share the technologies needed to save the lives of millions of people.
Heads of state are expected to announce their plans to share excess doses with poor countries at the summit, but this strategy is clearly insufficient to end the global pandemic.
PVA has in fact calculated that, if the pace of vaccinations continues with the current distribution, poor countries will only be able to immunize their entire population in 2078.
Meanwhile, the G7 countries will have all their citizens vaccinated by January 2022 and are already planning to administer the third dose. By the end of May, 42% had already received at least the first dose of the vaccine, while low-income countries did not even reach 1%.
The much-heralded COVAX initiative to ensure fair access to vaccines is now clearly in crisis. By the end of May, the program had distributed 77 million doses of the vaccine, only a third of those expected by that date. At its current rate of distribution, COVAX will deliver 250 million doses by the end of this year, covering only 10% of the population of the poor countries that participate. As a result, states that have relied on the program are running out of vaccines, and many people who have received the first dose have no idea when, or if, they will receive a second.
This supply crisis is partly due to COVAX’s inability to counter pharmaceutical monopolies, and partly to India’s over-reliance on the supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is instead allocating the doses produced for its own use.
Consequently, donations from rich countries are urgently needed to keep the COVAX system in place, but these will not be sufficient to maintain the set objectives. It is now evident that the need for donations is a symptom of a malfunctioning system, in which vaccines have been artificially made scarce and very expensive.
A real solution
For a year now, India and South Africa – also invited to this week’s summit in Great Britain – have proposed to the World Trade Organization (WTO) the temporary suspension of some patents to allow several countries to manufacture tampons, treatments and Covid-19 vaccines around the world. The proposal has received support from more than 100 countries, but G7 members have so far got in the way.
Only the United States has explicitly supported the suspension of patents on vaccines – but not on treatments and diagnostic tools – while Japan has stated that it will not object if other countries are in favor.
Germany, the United Kingdom and the representation of the European Union, on the other hand, continued to strongly oppose this initiative, although the suspension would lead to a massive increase in the production of vaccines on a global scale and the possibility of saving millions of lives. Italy and Canada have so far niched, remaining undecided on what to do, while Macron has finally declared his support for a suspension after a meeting with a group of French NGOs.
The People’s Vaccine Alliance is calling for the suspension of intellectual property, the sharing of technologies, and funding for the production of vaccines worldwide. Committee members drafted a detailed technical analysis showing that 8 billion doses could be produced in one year, with as little as $ 25 billion.
“We ask the leaders of the G7 to commit themselves to achieving the global goal of vaccinating 60% of the world population by the end of 2021 and its totality within the next 12 months, to support in the WTO the immediate suspension of the rules that protect intellectual property and impose the transfer of vaccine technology to all qualified manufacturers in the world, finance the creation and strengthening of production sites and health systems so that vaccines are administered to all for free, ”concluded Albiani and Miccio.