Young people around the world call on EU and UK for ‘unconditional’ vaccine patent waiver

Dozens of youth-led advocacy groups around the world released an open letter on Wednesday urging the European Union, the United Kingdom, Norway and Switzerland to immediately end their opposition to a proposed patent waiver for coronavirus vaccines, which still remain out of reach for billions of people in poor countries.

“Publicly funded vaccines should not be used to enrich pharmaceutical giants.”

“We write to you as young people, frustrated and disappointed with the way the pandemic has been handled,” reads the new letter, which was signed by more than 40 student and youth organizations based in India, in South Africa, Zambia, France, Argentina and other nations.

“The blocking of the TRIPS waiver and the failure to share the necessary technology has fundamentally undermined the right to live fully,” the letter continues. “There is no reason to leave the burden of fixing this system to us as future generations when immediate solutions exist.”

In the roughly 14 months since India and South Africa first submitted their temporary patent waiver plan to the World Trade Organization, European countries have repeatedly blocked the proposal and offered alternatives that critics say would not challenge the pharmaceutical industry’s monopolistic control over vaccine production. .

Under pressure from African countries to change their stance, EU leaders have reiterated their opposition to the patent waiver in recent days.

Proponents argue that a suspension of intellectual property protections – coupled with transfers of vaccine technology that wealthy countries and pharmaceutical companies have also opposed – would allow developing countries to independently produce coronavirus vaccines for their populations. .

“Pharmaceutical companies have claimed that the vaccine technology is too complex to license or share. Contrary to these claims, experts say the mRNA vaccine is easier to develop and Doctors Without Borders recently published a report showing that there are 120 possible manufacturers in the Global South,” the youth organizations wrote on Wednesday. “Thus, a temporary waiver of the TRIPS agreement can dramatically increase the rate of production and ensure broader and fairer global access to vaccines.”

In the absence of a patent waiver or technology transfer, low-income countries have largely been forced to rely on charitable vaccine efforts that have been plagued by cash shortages, to mismanagement and inadequate handouts from rich countries that hoard much of the world’s supply.

The result has been vast and persistent inequities in vaccine distribution. The latest figures from Our World in Data show that less than 11% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

“The vaccination strategy will only be effective if all of humanity has access to vaccines.”

A commentator recently observed that “out of over nine billion vaccine doses produced, Africa has only received around 540 million (about 6% of all Covid vaccines, despite having 17% of the world population) and
administered 309 million doses.”

According to an analysis released Wednesday by the People’s Vaccine Alliance, the EU is set to dump almost twice as many doses of coronavirus vaccine as it has given to Africa so far this year.

In their letter on Wednesday, the youth organizations warned that “this extreme vaccine inequity perpetuates the current crisis” and “threatens to create dangerous new variants”.

“Publicly funded vaccines should not be used to enrich pharmaceutical giants,” the groups wrote. “Unelected and undemocratic pharmaceutical companies cannot continue to dictate the global distribution of vaccines… We implore you to unconditionally support the TRIPS waiver and facilitate the transfer of related technology and knowledge to Covid-19 before the next WTO meeting at the end of March 2022.”

“The vaccination strategy will only be effective if all of humanity has access to vaccines,” they added. “Our joint success against this pandemic is in your hands.”

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