With the approval of several Covid-19 vaccines and the start of the vaccination campaign in a number of countries, hopes are high that the pandemic will be over soon. But no one is safe until everyone is safe. That is why the vaccine must be a global public good, universally accessible to all. To achieve this goal, we have to take action. Share the vaccine, stop the virus.
Despite the call of world leaders to make the vaccines global public goods, there is too little international cooperation to make them accessible to everyone on the planet. Wealthy countries, with only 14% of the world population, have hoarded more than half of the vaccines expected for 2021. On top of that, they are sabotaging international initiatives that can ensure the equitable distribution of vaccines.
If nothing changes, 9 out of 10 citizens in low income countries won’t have access to Covid-19 vaccines this year. This means that vulnerable groups and health workers in poor countries will be vaccinated after young and healthy citizens in rich countries.
The vaccine in public hands
Patents stand like a wall between vaccines and those who need them. First of all, patents give pharmaceutical companies the power to determine the price of their vaccine, even when it was developed with public funding. This makes vaccines too expensive in many countries around the world. Some companies have promised to sell their coronavirus vaccine at cost price but this is hard to verify because there is a lack of transparency. Secondly, patents do not allow the large scale production of vaccines. Pharmaceutical companies limit the production of their vaccine to a small number of suppliers, that cannot meet the urgent worldwide demand.
Therefore it is crucial that the control over the price and production of vaccines, developed with public funds, remains fully in public hands instead of with a small number of pharmaceutical companies. This will allow us to vaccinate much more people at a higher pace so that all of us are protected way sooner.
Strengthening public healthcare
Dealing with a pandemic is a huge challenge that we can only face with strong public healthcare all over the world. In the short term, we need strong public healthcare systems with local health centres to carry out large scale and efficient vaccination campaigns. If governments do not invest in the infrastructure needed for the distribution and transportation of vaccines, in primary healthcare and in sufficient and highly trained healthcare workers, the coronavirus vaccine will remain beyond the reach of far too many people and particularly of those most impacted by the pandemic. Thanks to strong public healthcare we can set up vaccination campaigns without disrupting other essential health services.
In the long term, strong public healthcare is necessary to prevent or to handle other health crises with more efficiency. The relationship of trust between health workers and patients, a common characteristic of primary health care, is important to inform the population, detect cases at an early stage and ensure efficient contact tracing. Furthermore, health policy should prioritise participation and the collaboration of different actors, such as healthcare workers, impacted communities and social movements.
What should be done?
1. Ensure the equitable distribution of vaccines
Our government should make every effort to ensure that vaccines are distributed in a fair way via the World Health Organization.
2. Free the vaccines of patents, share knowledge and technology
Public authorities have financed the research, development and production of Covid-19 vaccines. In order to increase vaccine production, our country and the European Commission should make sure that coronavirus vaccines are marketed without patent and that pharmaceutical companies share their knowledge and technology instead of privatizing them.
3. Invest in public healthcare all over the world
Facing a pandemic is a huge challenge. Strong public healthcare is necessary, all over the world. Our government can make this happen :
- by opposing the growing role of private actors in the development cooperation
- by using the health segment of the development budget to reinforce public healthcare instead of combatting specific diseases.
Sign this European citizen initiative so that the European Commission takes measures to make the vaccines and anti-pandemics treatments a global public good, freely accessible to all.
Together we support social movements all over the world that fight for strong public healthcare, capable of dealing with sanitary crises like the Covid-19 pandemic.