To finally end the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to make vaccines available to everyone, everywhere in the world. Here’s how.
More than a year into the 2020-2021 COVID-19 pandemic, a few countries are well on their way to vaccinating their population. And with more COVID-19 vaccine in the pipeline, they are well positioned to end the worst of the disease for their citizens.
But in most of the other countries in the world it’s a different story. Little of the COVID vaccine is available in wide areas of Latin America, Africa, and Asia.
Why do we need a People’s Vaccine?
COVID-19 anywhere means COVID-19 everywhere. Allocating most of the coronavirus vaccine doses to people in wealthy countries that can afford it merely deprives others and will not end the crisis. This is why Oxfam has joined the People’s Vaccine Alliance and is advocating for COVID-19 vaccines to be fairly accessible and affordable to everyone everywhere. The COVID-19 vaccine should be patent-free, mass produced, distributed fairly, and made available free of charge, to every individual, rich and poor alike, in every country.
Unless we take immediate action to address the lack of access to vaccines, we risk
- Poverty: a continuation of the pandemic in areas where people were already struggling in poverty could cause needless suffering. A longer pandemic could push an additional half billion people into poverty, undoing decades of progress. The International Monetary Fund has said that inequality will likely rise in every country.
- Mutations and an endless pandemic: Not vaccinating people fast enough could allow mutations of the virus to proliferate. That makes it more likely we will face a new mutation that is more contagious, more lethal, or more capable of resisting the vaccines that have been developed so far. And that’s when we could again be facing the catastrophe of a deadly, infectious virus with no effective vaccine.
- Economic costs for everyone: An ongoing pandemic is not just a problem for poor people, it affects us all. Delays in vaccine access in poorer countries could cost the global economy an estimated $9 trillion (according to the International Chamber of Commerce), with nearly half of this absorbed in wealthy countries such as the US, Canada, Germany, and the UK.
What will it take to vaccinate everyone?
The current measures to make COVID-19 vaccines available to everyone in poor and middle-income countries are inadequate. Wealthy countries are tying up the supply of vaccines, and making a few doses available through the COVID-19 Vaccine Accelerator (COVAX) program, but the initiative is underfunded and will at best only vaccinate about 20 percent of the people in low- and middle-income countries. What we need to do instead:
- Share the recipe: Governments of the world’s wealthier countries should be using their huge financial and legal power to force pharmaceutical companies to share their technology and intellectual property through the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool and support a proposal at the World Trade Organization to temporarily suspend intellectual property rights (WTO TRIPS waiver) for all COVID-19 vaccines.
- Manufacture more: By making the technology available, the world can produce more vaccines quickly and get everyone vaccinated. Every qualified manufacturer should be producing one of the COVID-19 vaccines right now, but instead pharmaceutical companies are guarding their patents and creating scarcity so they can make more money. This normal way of doing business is unacceptable right now. Vaccine producers need to license others to produce the vaccines, publish their data, and provide technical assistance so that manufacturers everywhere can help expand the world’s supply of vaccines immediately.
What can you do?
The United States has an opportunity to be a world leader again. We are calling on President Biden to use his power to temporarily waive intellectual property rights, implement measures like the Defense Production Act, and bring about a People’s Vaccine and to make the COVID-19 vaccine free, fair, and accessible to everyone, everywhere.
Join us to tell President Biden to bring about a People’s Vaccine by preventing monopoly control of vaccine production in order to mobilize more manufacturing of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for all.