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Two years into COVID-19 pandemic, Amref joins call for end to vaccine monopolies

Two years into COVID-19 pandemic, Amref joins call for end to vaccine monopolies

Friday, 11th March, 2022

More than 130 former world leaders, Nobel laureates, leading scientists, economists, humanitarians, faith leaders, business leaders, trade unionists, and celebrities - including Amref Health Africa Group CEO, Dr Githinji Gitahi - are calling for urgent action to vaccinate low and middle-income countries and bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, in a letter coordinated by the People’s Vaccine Alliance.

The authoritative voices are uniting on the second anniversary of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) declaration that the COVID-19 outbreak had become a pandemic. They urge world leaders “to do what is necessary to end this crisis” and unite behind a People’s Vaccine, based on the principles of equity and solidarity; accessible to everyone, everywhere; and free from patents and profiteering.

They warn that “despite what some leaders in wealthy countries would like us to believe, the pandemic is not over”. But an end to COVID-19 is “within our grasp”, they say, if we give “everyone, everywhere access to safe and effective vaccines and other life-saving COVID-19 technologies”.

The letter’s signatories include H.E. Samia Suluhu Hassan, current President of Tanzania, and the former leaders of more than 40 countries; Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex; Charlize Theron, United Nations Messenger of Peace and Founder of the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project; and EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren. Two previous Presidents of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma and Victor Yuschenko, and former First Lady Kateryna Yushchenko have joined the plea for vaccine equity amid the conflict in their country.

Some of the world’s most senior women leaders, including Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia and Africa’s first elected female head of state; Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi; Graça Machel, former First Lady of South Africa and Mozambique and founder of the Graça Machel Trust; Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland; Helen Clarke, former Prime Minister of New Zealand; and Vaira Vike-Freiberga, first female President of Latvia and Eastern Europe and Co-Chair of the Nizami Ganjavi International Center.

They join Ban Ki-moon, former United Nations Secretary-General and President and Honorary Member of Club de Madrid, and the former leaders of institutions including the World Bank, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), alongside the current leaders of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

Condemning the approach of world leaders so far as “immoral, entirely self-defeating and also an ethical, economic and epidemiological failure”, they warn that leaving billions of people unvaccinated risks leading to dangerous new variants COVID-19.

Failure to vaccinate the world so far is down to “self-defeating nationalism, pharmaceutical monopolies and inequality”, the leaders say, which have led to the “avoidable” milestones of two years and an estimated twenty million deaths from COVID-19.

They criticise the European Union, the United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland for continuing “to block the lifting of intellectual property rules which would enable the redistribution and scale-up of COVID-19 vaccine, test and treatment manufacturing in the global south”.
India and South Africa first proposed an intellectual property waiver at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in October 2020, which is supported by more than 100 countries. The United States announced its support for a waiver in May 2021, but British and European opposition led by the UK and Germany has prevented the WTO from reaching a consensus.
It comes as People’s Vaccine activists hold die-ins and rallies on nearly every continent, urging world leaders to end Big Pharma’s monopoly grip on COVID vaccines, tests and treatments needed to save lives and prevent the next variant.

Let us be clear: this pandemic is far from over in Africa and across the world. We are seeing, with each day, thousands of avoidable deaths. We are seeing women and girls being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, through lost educational opportunities, domestic violence, and economic hardship.

We must recapture the spirit of solidarity to end the suffering and create a better future. That starts now with ending these callous pharmaceutical monopolies on COVID-19 vaccines, so Africa and the world can tackle this crisis and the next.

Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi

Notes for editors

The full letter and list of signatories is available here.

The letter puts five demands to world leaders:

  1. Urgently agree and implement a global roadmap to deliver the WHO goal of fully vaccinating 70% of people by mid-2022, and beyond this ensure sustained, timely and equitable access worldwide to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, tests and other medical technologies, including next generations effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines and medical technologies.
  2. Maximise the production of safe and effective vaccines and other COVID-19 products by suspending relevant intellectual property rules and ensuring the mandatory pooling of all COVID-19 related knowledge, data and technologies so that any nation can produce or buy sufficient and affordable doses of vaccines, treatments and tests.
  3. Invest public funding now in a rapid and massive increase in vaccine manufacturing as well as research and development (R&D) capacity to build a global distributed network capable of and governed to deliver affordable vaccines as global public goods to all nations.
  4. Make COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests available to governments and institutions at a price as close to the true cost as possible, and provided free of charge to everyone, everywhere, and allocated according to need.
  5. Scale-up sustainable investment in public health systems to ensure that low- and middle-income country governments have adequate resources to get shots into arms and save lives. These investments will pay dividends in the global economy and help restore economic and development gains which the global COVID-19 pandemic has partially reversed.

Find out more about the People's Vaccine Alliance - and the reasons Amref Health Africa made the decision to join.

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