Vaccinate against indifference


The COVID-19 pandemic has once again shown that we live in a very unequal world in which people in impoverished countries are always the most vulnerable. Over the past year we have seen statistics on the lack of doctors, hospital beds, medicines and basic health supplies in many countries to cope with the pandemic. In addition, millions of school-aged people have been severely hampered in their education processes as schools have had to be closed in many cases, and alternative online education possibilities were not available to most students due to lack of computer equipment, lack of reliable connection or even lack of power supply.

At this time, facing the dramatic shortage of vaccines that most countries are experiencing to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the General Commission for Justice and Peace of Spain wishes to join the voice to those of all governments and organisations that are asking the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for the immediate temporary suspension of COVID-19 patents. This suspension is legal and it is explicitly provided for in the WTO agreements, which allow for a temporary suspension of intellectual property rights in «exceptional circumstances».

Due to the evolution of the pandemic, this suspension is the only possible way to increase production of vaccines against COVID-19 at the necessary rate to enable its control, as many more pharmaceutical industries could collaborate in the production of the billions of doses that are urgently needed worldwide in the short to medium term. If this sustained mass production of vaccines, tests, drugs and protective equipment does not take place, the pandemic's death toll will be even more terrible and the disease control will be impossible. For some countries, this will mean major social and economic setbacks that will greatly jeopardise their future, as hundreds of millions of people may fall back into extreme poverty.

The corporate interests of the pharmaceutical industries, supported by some governments, cannot prevail over a humanitarian emergency, now or in the future. The economy must always be at the service of people and economic profit must be proportionate and subordinate to the achievement of the common good. Moreover, it is not ethically acceptable for the inhabitants of a few countries to unilaterally monopolise the production and access to vaccines and medicines, because everyone on this planet has exactly the same right to good health. In the case of COVID-19, the only way for this right to be exercised is for the production of vaccines to grow exponentially and, to this end, it is essential to deprivatize the knowledge that has enabled vaccines to be generated, as well as to share globally all the tools at our disposal in order to emerge from the pandemic.

Ensuring the efficiency of this measure entails the necessary funding to ensure that all countries can receive the emergency doses, medicines and medical supplies they need, through the COVAX initiative[1] or similar. It is also necessary to help build public confidence in vaccines by promoting clear information and transparent management of vaccines.

Pope Francis has recently said: "Everyone, especially the most vulnerable among us, requires assistance and has the right to have access to necessary care. This is even more evident in these times when all of us are called to combat the pandemic. Vaccines are an essential tool in this fight. I urge the entire international community, in a spirit of global responsibility, to commit to overcoming delays in the distribution of vaccines and to facilitate their distribution, especially in the poorest countries" [2].

For this reason, the Spanish General Commission for Justice and Peace calls on:

The Spanish and EU governments that:

  • Advocate in the WTO for a temporary waiver of the Agreement on Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for COVID-19 vaccines.
  • On the occasion of the 74th World Health Assembly from 24 May to 1 June 2021, the EU will take the lead in global cooperation because this need for widespread and global immunisation requires a multilateral approach.
  • The current shortage of doses due to difficulties in the production of vaccines will be equally charged in all countries and the most vulnerable groups will be protected earlier.

The citizenship that:

  • Contribute with the support to any of the campaigns launched to suspend the Covid-19 vaccine patents.
  • Support fundraising campaigns such as COVAX[3] and the provision of health and vaccination infrastructure in the poorest countries: "I got vaccinated and I support the vaccination of other people in need".

Everyone, without discrimination, should have the opportunity to receive a safe and effective vaccine. This is a matter of justice and solidarity not only within the European Union, but in other continents and countries because health is a right for all people.

Madrid, 17 May 2021

[1] Covid-19 Global Access Fund for Vaccines.

[2] Francisco, Message "Urbi et Orbi" of Easter 2021.

[3] COVAX Funds are collected from Gavi and Unicef.