REACTION: US scapegoating overshadows call for People’s Vaccine at World Health Assembly

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Commenting at the closure of the World Health Assembly today, Anna Marriott, Oxfam Health Policy Manager said:

“We needed the World Health Assembly to unite behind a People’s Vaccine, not a Trump Administration seeking scapegoats for a pandemic it has mishandled from the start.

“Lessons will need to be learned about how governments and global institutions have responded to the pandemic. But calling for fundamental reforms now, when the World Health Organisation needs to be fully focused on coordinating the global fight against the pandemic, is a recipe for disaster.

“The resolution agreed at the World Health Assembly leaves too many barriers standing in the way of a vaccine for all. A People’s Vaccine should be patent-free, mass produced, distributed fairly, and made available, free of charge, to every individual, rich and poor alike. World leaders must commit to putting public health before the profits of the pharmaceutical industry.”

Ends

Notes to editor

The World Health Assembly resolution on access to vaccines, treatments and tests for the coronavirus supports the use of existing global trade rules to override corporate patent rights in the interest of public health, and tasks the World Health Organisation to come up with options for scaling up global manufacturing and distribution capacity for vaccines, tests and treatments.  However, despite acknowledging that vaccines, treatments and tests are global public goods, it does not require pharmaceutical corporations to pool their patents – a process which would enable anyone with the means to manufacture or import affordable copies – and it does not guarantee that vaccines, treatments and tests will be made available to individuals free of charge.

After the resolution was unanimously adopted, the US officially disassociated itself from any references in the resolution to Sexual and Reproductive Health; from references to the internationally agreed legal right of countries to over-ride patents on medicines in the interests of public health (known as TRIPS flexibilities); and clarified its own narrow interpretation of the reference to the use of existing mechanisms to pool patents as entirely voluntary, and narrow in scope and time limited.

Last week over 150 current and former world leaders, economists and health experts signed an open letter calling for a ‘People’s Vaccine.’