Two years later, the vaccine divide prolongs the pandemic
Associate Director, Business and Human Rights Division
Senior Researcher, Children’s Rights Division
This coin is the fourth in a series marking the second anniversary of the Covid-19 pandemic. Discover more of our work documenting the global response to coronavirus here.
As we enter another year of this miserable pandemic that has killed more than 6 million people, the gap between vaccine haves and have-nots is not only huge, it is widening.
In the United States and Europe, where governments are outbidding others to provide enough vaccines for their populations, people are beginning to reunite with friends and family and travel more freely, planning long-awaited vacations to get out of “pandemic fatigue”. But there are billions of people around the world, including health workers, still waiting to be fully vaccinated and trapped in the cycle of outbreaks, lockdowns, disease and death. Those without the vaccine continue to wait, anxious, tired, dreaming only of traveling to find their loved ones or unable to attend the funerals of those they have lost.
This fracture was not an inevitable consequence of the pandemic. It can and should be filled.
For more than 17 months, the governments of high-income countries such as the United States, Switzerland and EU member states have presented themselves to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to assure that the pharmaceutical industry would ensure the global availability of vaccines, tests and treatments. But the rules that make it difficult to expand and diversify the production of Covid-19 tests, treatments and vaccines are still in place and a proposed temporary waiver of those rules, backed by more than 100 low-income and intermediate, remains in neutral. the WTO.
Meanwhile, BioNTech, Pfizer and Moderna have refused to share their technology with the World Health Organization (WHO) mRNA Technology Center and have yet to undertake more widespread technology transfers, even if experts have identified more than 100 global manufacturers capable of producing mRNA vaccines in a short time. . In addition, a complete lack of transparency on vaccine supplies and delivery schedules has hampered the ability of governments to plan vaccine distribution and deployment.
We need inspired and bold leadership from high-income governments, pharmaceutical companies and their investors to break this impasse. Too often, boards and investors measure success solely in terms of earnings. The actual and potential human rights abuses associated with the delay in universal access to vaccines and treatments are catastrophic. Governments should quickly adopt the TRIPS waiver and work with investors to ensure pharmaceutical companies share technology and commit to transparency, at least publishing expected delivery schedules for lifesaving vaccines and treatments. We cannot afford another pandemic year with more promises of access in the distant future.