A group of UN independent human rights experts on Wednesday called on the leaders of the world’s largest economies to ensure equal access to COVID-19 vaccines for people in the Global South.
The experts made the appeal ahead of the three-day Summit of the G7 intergovernmental group of leading countries in the United Kingdom, which begins on Friday.
The G7 countries are a group of the world’s seven largest advanced economies namely: the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Canada, France, Japan and the United States.
The experts urged the leaders of G7 not to allow the profit motive to undermine global health and equity.
“Everyone has a right to have access to a vaccine for COVID-19 that is safe, effective, timely and based on the application of the best scientific development.
The nine independent experts said it was time for “international solidarity and cooperation” to assist all Governments in vaccinating people and saving lives.
“It is not the time for protracted negotiations or for lobbying to erect barriers in order to protect corporate profits,” they emphasised.
According to them, in spit of the extraordinarily speedy production of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, swift action has not followed to aid equal access across all countries and regions.
“Billions of people in the Global South are being left behind.
“They see vaccines as a mirage or a privilege for the developed world; that would “unnecessarily prolong the crisis, drastically increase the death toll and deepen economic distress, possibly sowing the seeds of social unrest.”
In addition, they said G7 leaders should make it their top priority to protect the life and health of people in the most socially and economically precarious situations.
“It is shocking that, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) reports, less than one per cent of all vaccines administered so far have gone to low-income countries.
“Intellectual property rights must not become a barrier to low-cost production and expanded supply,’’ they said.
The UN experts urged pharmaceutical companies to join WHO’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) for sharing know-how, data and intellectual property.
They recalled that while the TRIPs Agreement on intellectually property rights provided for certain flexibilities, including the possibility of compulsory licensing in cases of national emergency, they are insufficient to respond to the current pandemic.
“Maximising production of safe vaccines must take precedence over profiting from a global pandemic.
“States must ensure that legal protection for intellectual property and patents doesn’t undermine the right of everyone to get access to a safe, timely and effective vaccine,” the experts said.