ResourcesPress Release

Less Talk, More Access: COVID-19 Vaccine Campaigners

Bold action is needed to vaccinate the world, not empty promises

In reaction to today’s global COVID-19 summit hosted by President Biden, campaigners from the People’s Vaccine Alliance caution that ambitious goals to vaccinate the world will only be met with bold action to increase manufacturing, technology transfer, and access to COVID-19 vaccines around the world, not empty promises.

The Alliance, which is a coalition of more than 75 organizations around the world united under a common aim of campaigning for a people’s vaccine for COVID-19, warned that we are nowhere near the track to vaccinate 70 percent of the world by this time next year. 

“Today’s summit was full of speeches but tragically lacking in action. While we commend President Biden for rallying world leaders to commit to vaccinate 70% of the world by this time next year, we have yet to see an effective plan to meet this goal. Now is the time to waive intellectual property barriers, end vaccine monopolies, and mandate the sharing of vaccine technologies and know-how. Now is the time to invest in vaccine research and development and manufacturing capacity in developing countries, and to continue to reallocate existing vaccine doses. Anything short of this does not constitute a plan.  We need a people’s vaccine now.” Abby Maxman, Oxfam America’s President and CEO. 

“Ending the pandemic is a choice and leaders at today’s summit have yet to make that choice. The US government has the recipe for the world’s most effective Covid vaccine and can choose to share this knowledge to help make billions more doses in the year ahead. But they haven’t. The WHO has established an mRNA manufacturing hub in South Africa, and will need ambitious support, but wealthy countries have not offered much so far.” Peter Maybarduk, Access to Medicines Director, Public Citizen 

“High-income, vaccine-hoarding governments are falling woefully short on their earlier pledges to donate vaccines to the Global South. What the world needs now is not inconsistent and paltry charitable giving of extra doses, but bold action and a coherent plan to drastically expand global manufacturing, technology transfer, and equitable distribution. A People’s Vaccine will help save millions of lives and curb the pandemic faster for all of us. A global summit is a good step but President Biden needs to go much further, coordinating with other high-income countries to employ transformational approaches to get vaccines to everyone, everywhere.” Michele Heisler, MD, MPA, Medical Director at Physicians for Human Rights and Professor of Internal Medicine and Public Health at University of Michigan.

“Leaders at the COVID Summit said the right things, but will they do the right things? Trickles of donations while only two 2% of people living in the world’s lowest-income countries have been vaccinated will not pull us out of this crisis. As long as the pharmaceutical corporations retain their monopolies on the life-saving technology, they will always put profits before people. With 10,000 people dying every single day, nothing short of redistributing the rights to produce the vaccines will be enough. It’s time to put people before profits.” Maaza Seyoum of the African Alliance and the People’s Vaccine Alliance in Africa. 

“When US President Biden used his UN General Assembly speech to call US donations a ‘dose of hope’ to countries in dire need of vaccines, he ignored the reality that donations alone will be insufficient without high-income countries pushing pharmaceutical companies to share vaccine know-how. And to date, the US is falling far short of meeting its already-meager vaccine donation pledges. World powers need to expeditiously invest in increasing vaccine manufacturing and delivery systems, require pharmaceutical companies to engage in tech transfer related to COVID-19 vaccines, forcefully endorse a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights, and equitably reallocate doses that have already been purchased based on need. Rather than doses of hope, President Biden and the leaders of other wealthy countries need a dose of reality and a stronger stance against pharmaceutical company monopolies.” Max Hadler, MPH, MA, COVID-19 Senior Policy Expert at Physicians for Human Rights. 

“While today’s summit was a step in the right direction, platitudes won’t save lives. As President Biden was speaking, one person was dying from COVID-19 every 4 seconds. Despite the gravity of this crisis, the President failed to outline a sustainable plan to scale up manufacturing of the most effective vaccines in an equitable fashion. After millions of unnecessary deaths, we have no more time to waste.”James Krellenstein , co-founder, PrEP4All.

The People’s Vaccine Alliance is calling for President Biden and world leaders to:

  • Reach an urgent agreement on a waiver of intellectual property rules ahead of the TRIPS council in October, so that all qualified manufacturers, especially those in developing countries, are able to produce COVID vaccines.
  • Make legally binding commitments to share vaccine doses immediately, so that the most vulnerable and those working on the front line in developing countries are protected, before rich countries give third shots to healthy adults. 
  • Use every power available to make it a requirement for pharmaceutical companies to share technology and know-how with the mRNA Hub in South Africa and the Covid-19 Technology Access Pool, and ensure there is enough funding to make the technology transfer happen.
  • Launch an ambitious global vaccine manufacturing program to produce billions more highly effective doses within one year and ensure the necessary funding for this effort. 

Editors notes:

While rich countries have administered 80 percent of global doses, poor countries have had only 0.5 percent. 

The Alliance estimates that only 13% of doses promised by G7 leaders in June have been delivered so far. 

COVAX has announced it is half a billion doses short of meeting even its already low target of enough doses for 23 percent of people in developing countries.

According to Airfinity, the G7 are on track to waste 100 million doses of the vaccines by the end of the year.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.