Action needed on global access to vaccines

 

Sir, – Extreme vaccine inequality is leaving millions of lives hanging in the balance.

There are many reasons for this inequality. One of the most indefensible is the continuance of the monopoly control of a small number of vaccine makers on the production of Covid-19 vaccines which stands in the way of achieving a fairer, healthier world by putting corporate profit before people.

Although there have been some welcome steps to increase the supply of vaccines to poor countries, including from Ireland, they remain insufficient when compared to the scale of the Covid-19 threat.

People in developing countries need access to vaccines to achieve herd immunity, just as people in Ireland do.

Oxfam Ireland, along with a number of organisations, networks and health professionals are urgently requesting that the Irish Government supports proposals to allow Covid-19 vaccine technology to be shared openly through an emergency waiver at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

This emergency waiver would allow more vaccines and treatments to be produced on a global scale.

With so many of the world’s developing nations – nations that Ireland has a long-shared history with through its humanitarian and development work – supporting this emergency waiver, Ireland should reaffirm its moral and public health leadership now by prioritising saving lives over profit.

It is worth noting that the waiver is also in line with the WTO’s own members’ agreement that intellectual property rules cannot create barriers to health treatments for diseases that unnecessarily cost human lives and undermine the global economy.

As things stand, we are managing to build an even more unfair, unhealthier world – but there are remedies.

To control the virus enough vaccines need to be produced in different geographies, priced affordably, and allocated globally.

Thus far, the world is failing on all fronts.

Let’s stop fighting over limited supplies of vaccines and instead unite behind the call for the recipes for producing these lifesaving medicines to be shared – so everyone can be treated regardless of geography or a country’s buying power.

Make Covid-19 vaccines a global public good – a “people’s vaccine” to defeat an indiscriminate foe. – Yours, etc,

JIM CLARKEN,

Chief Executive,

Oxfam Ireland,

Ringsend,

Dublin 4.