Covid-19 spreads faster than vaccines:rich countries must address vaccine inequality
Today, even the most remote communities have been affected by the covid-19 pandemic, and only a global approach can effectively combat it. While the developed countries have contained the pandemic and the vaccination rate has climbed, developing countries have received very few vaccine doses and are among the best on the list of infections and fatal cases. The Director-General of the World Health Organization Tan Desai warned: "The global decline masks the worrying increase in the number of cases and deaths in many countries." The recent deaths per 100 confirmed cases are Peru 9.4%, Mexico 9.2%, and Afghanistan 4.2. %, Tunisia 3.5%, South Africa 3%, Indonesia 2.6%.
Although we welcome the G7 initiative to provide nearly 1 billion vaccines to low-income and low- and middle-income countries, this strategy alone cannot solve the pandemic, because the 11 billion vaccines needed to achieve the goal are still far away. Vaccine 70% of the world’s population to end the pandemic next year. In addition, because the vaccine is expected to be put into use in 2022, this initiative only provides a minimal solution to the problem that requires more urgent measures to reduce social, health and economic crises and reduce the possibility of viral mutations.
Extraterritorial legal obligations
In April 2021, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights outlined the international cooperation and assistance obligations of countries to ensure that vaccines against COVID-19 are available wherever needed, thereby contributing to achieving universal and equitable access to vaccines . This translates into a legal obligation for high-income countries to support the COVAX program and vaccine-producing countries to promote access to health care.
Unfair distribution of vaccines
As of April, 87% of all vaccines vaccinated globally were used in high-income or upper-middle-income countries, while low-income countries received only 0.2%. In addition, in countries around the world, the response to the epidemic has exacerbated the inequalities already faced by many minority and vulnerable groups, including people of African descent, indigenous peoples, immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, and caused the vast majority of people. People living behind in prisons, detention centers and places of detention. The devastating human costs caused by corruption exacerbate these differences. When the government failed to prevent fraud and bribery in the healthcare supply chain, they committed human rights violations because they ensured in the fight against covid-19 The safety of essential medicines.
Such differences are particularly worrying because they pose a threat to global public health. Experts have proven that the longer community transmission lasts because it occurs in unvaccinated communities, the greater the possibility of the virus mutating, thereby creating conditions for more aggressive strains to emerge. Mutations can cause vaccines to stop working because they work by teaching our antibodies to recognize the virus by its genetic code—a code that changes when it is mutated. This means that if further mutations occur, even those who have been vaccinated and live in vaccinated areas will be at risk of infection, thereby destroying all the hard-won progress made so far. Global herd immunity is critical to fighting the pandemic and cannot be achieved by excluding entire regions of the world from vaccination.
Priorities that need to be changed
After this discrepancy, it is of serious concern that high-income countries give priority to vaccinating low-risk groups (such as young people without health problems), rather than vaccinating people who have not been vaccinated in developing countries due to lack of vaccines. Vaccinations are carried out by front-line healthcare professionals. Countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada have purchased enough supplies to vaccinate each person with 8 doses and 10 doses respectively. In Niger, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Syria, Yemen In countries such as Tajikistan, the vaccination rate has not even reached 1%.
For these reasons, we urge high-income countries with a surplus of vaccines to immediately send vaccines to poorer countries—including vaccines previously identified for their own minors. COVAX donations should be given priority over vaccinating minors with few or mild health problems and a low risk of severe covid-19 symptoms.
Slow vaccine production
Although many countries in the world do not produce vaccines themselves, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights outlines that “intellectual property rights are not human rights, but social products with social functions. Therefore, States parties have an obligation to prevent intellectual property rights and patent legal systems from harming the economy. , Social and cultural rights."
In addition to COVAX, the most effective way to fight the virus in a timely manner will be to increase and reduce the cost of vaccine production, mainly by expanding the number of manufacturers currently producing vaccines. Although we have noticed that G7 has decided to strengthen the coordination of global manufacturing capabilities on all continents, these have not met the important decision of the United Nations human rights experts to call for the abolition of legal protection of intellectual property and patents in order to promote everyone's rights. Nine UN human rights experts called for safe and effective vaccines on the eve of the meeting.
Intellectual property rights cannot be an obstacle to the fight against the pandemic that has so far caused more than 4 million deaths worldwide. Therefore, we urge high-income countries to agree to temporarily suspend patents for vaccines, treatments, and technologies to combat covid-19 that the WTO is discussing.
In addition, it is incorrect to insist that a patent suspension would undermine the intellectual property incentives for vaccine research. The suspension will be limited in time and scope, and has a clear goal: to promote global access to covid-19 related products. In addition, pharmaceutical companies conducting vaccine research have received extensive government R&D support, reducing the need for patent monopoly. More than 7 billion euros in public funds are used to support a selected number of multinational pharmaceutical companies to research the covid-19 vaccine. This is in stark contrast to the company’s revenue from vaccine sales. Pfizer’s revenue is more than 15 billion U.S. dollars, more than Moderna is US$18.4 billion and Johnson & Johnson is US$10 billion, excluding stocks that have soared 400-700% since February 2020.
Another misunderstanding is that low-income or middle-income countries do not have enough capacity to produce vaccines. This does not reflect reality, because there are many companies that specialize in generic treatments that can produce vaccines. The largest vaccine manufacturer, the Serology Institute that produces AstraZeneca vaccines, is located in India, so it acts as a manufacturer in high-income countries at its own expense, and most of the benefits, including vaccines and patent ownership, are highly profitable-income countries.
In a vicious circle, poverty has exacerbated the impact of the pandemic on low-income countries, while the pandemic has also exacerbated poverty. All covid-19 decisions must follow the extraterritorial human rights obligations of countries and the recommendations of health experts to avoid a larger global social, economic, and health crisis from which we cannot recover.