There are striking parallels between COVID-19 and another deadly pandemic: HIV.
G20 flash mob unleashed by activists from Oxfam, EMERGENCY and Amnesty International, members of the People’s Vaccine Alliance.
This was an appeal to world leaders to suspend monopolies on Covid vaccines and allow them to be produced in low-income countries, where just 1.8% of the population are currently vaccinated. Italy has made its stance clear and is taking courageous and genuinely effective action to get universal access to vaccines.
As much of the world’s population cries out for universal access to Covid vaccines, the pharmaceutical companies hang on to their patents and go on selling the vast majority of doses to the highest bidder among rich countries, at prices of up to 24 times the cost of production.
The national leaders at the G20 are at a crossroads. Should they tackle the practical causes of the current imbalance in access to vaccines, making them a universal public good that will save millions of lives, especially in low-income countries, where just 1.8% of the population is currently vaccinated? Or should they go on with the strategy thus far, of letting the pharmaceutical companies make big profits and maintain their position as exclusive producers, in spite of a global demand for vaccines that can never be satisfied by the handful of corporations that hold the patents and can decide how much to sell and to whom, when five million lives have already been lost?
This morning in Rome, activists from Oxfam, EMERGENCY and Amnesty International (all members of the People’s Vaccine Alliance) unleashed a flash mob on the eve of the G20 for government leaders on 30 and 31 October.
The three organisations that took part declared: ‘A few days ago, the World Health Organization confirmed what we’ve been saying for some time, that without a radical change of course, the pandemic will go on claiming victims throughout 2022, increasing the risk of dangerous variants. That’s why we’re asking the G20 leaders to come up with effective, immediate solutions for saving lives and tackling an emergency that’s increasingly splitting the planet in two. It’s therefore crucial that we suspend the intellectual property rights to Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatment held by the pharmaceutical industry, and support the proposal that South Africa and India made over a year ago to the World Trade Organization, which was supported by over 100 countries. This path has been obstructed, but it will let us increase world production of vaccines and satisfy the demand for doses in states which cannot afford to pay the prices set by the pharmaceutical industry. We are asking the Italian government, the hosts of the G20, to finally take a clear stance on this matter and follow the path cleared by US President Joe Biden and now being promoted by the European Union, of temporarily suspending patents.’
On the eve of the summit, the three organisations published, with the People’s Vaccine Alliance, the report ‘Una dose di realtà’ (‘A dose of reality’), in which they criticise rich countries for donating just 261 million Covid vaccines to poor ones, in spite of promising 1.8 billion doses. Italy contributed 6.1 million of these, some way off the 45 million promised by Prime Minister Mario Draghi. As for the pharmaceutical companies that hold the patents on these vaccines, they have sent just 12% of the doses they allocated to COVAX, the initiative set up by the World Health Organization to ensure access to vaccines in low- and middle-income countries. By the end of 2021 pharmaceutical companies will have produced 1.3 billion fewer doses than planned, as they are still selling their products to the highest bidder.