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Our health is not for sale: time for #VaccineEquality

The fight for accessible vaccines for all is the battle of our time. Today, on World Health Day, we launch our campaign for Covid-19 vaccines to be treated as a global common good. 

Health is not a commodity, it’s a right. So why are we treating it like a product that can be traded? Today’s race for vaccines and the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic risks replicating the same inequalities that plague the system we are living in. The fight for accessible vaccines for all, procured with transparency and accountability, is the battle of our time and will shape the future of health and healthcare for decades to come.

Covid-19 vaccines and treatments must be treated as global common goods accessible to everyone, everywhere. “The campaign we’re launching today is another step in our persistent pressure on EU leaders. Vaccines save lives. It is time to put an end to private profiteering at the expense of the whole world,” says MEP Kateřina Konečná. 

The #VaccineEquality campaign is a rallying cry for civil society and citizens across Europe demanding equality and solidarity in the European response to the Covid-19 pandemic. #VaccineEquality means putting a stop to Big Pharma’s greed, ensuring that everybody within and beyond Europe can have safe access to quality vaccines.

When the pandemic hit, our lives – together with billions of people around the world – suddenly changed profoundly: we shut ourselves in our homes; we saw our hospitals, already ravaged by years of austerity, pushed to breaking point, we lost our loved ones without even the chance to say goodbye. We couldn’t rely on the hugs of our friends and family to mourn. The only possible contact outside the walls of our homes was through screens. Many of us are constantly forced to choose between their health and their jobs, others have lost their livelihood, while some are struggling to reconcile this new life with additional caring responsibilities. 

We felt the pain of isolation and loss, and we promised ourselves that we would come out of this pandemic with renewed solidarity. We did not give up and we pinned our hopes on science. $12 billion in public money was poured into the coffers of pharmaceutical companies to develop the recipe that could allow us to come back together: vaccines. We found the solution in record time, so, why aren’t we providing it to everyone, everywhere? Because, for some, profit comes first, before anything else, including the right to health.

“In order to put this pandemic behind us, we need to achieve collective immunisation of the global population as soon as possible. This is the only way. As the WHO has repeatedly stated, no one is safe until everyone is safe”, stresses MEP Dimitrios Papadimoulis. 

“Even after over two million deaths, pharmaceutical companies still refuse to share vaccine technology. Banning other companies and entire countries from producing the vaccine exacerbates the shortage of doses we are witnessing and ultimately inequality. It guarantees huge profits to shareholders but denies access to care for millions of people. Lockdown after lockdown, all of our rights have been curtailed. The only right that seems untouchable, is the Intellectual Property Right of Big Pharma”, says MEP Marc Botenga.

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), are a set of rights regulated by national and international agreements that, among other things, give the possibility to companies to patent their products. In the context of healthcare, they directly hamper the dissemination of life-saving medicine, and this is what is happening for vaccines against Covid-19. IPR are blocking the upscaling of production, creating an artificial shortage of vaccines. Oxfam reports that we are using only 43% of global production. It’s not that we don’t have vaccines for everyone, rather, BigPharma simply prefers to make money. And the European Commission is allowing it. 

India and South Africa, together with more than 100 countries, are requesting the temporary waiver of the TRIPS Agreement, a deal that regulates international trade and Intellectual Property Rights, at the WTO. “The issue of equal access to the vaccine”, says Konečná  “has been widely debated since the beginning of the outbreak of Covid-19”. “Unfortunately, equality of access to vaccines does not apply either between EU member states nor in the rest of the world. The old mechanisms under WTO and TRIPS rules have repeatedly failed. New ones like COVAX didn’t work. The only way to cure the world and bring life back to normal is to revoke patent protection for Covid-19 vaccines and drugs and make them free to anybody who is capable of manufacturing them. Together, we must change the EU’s position on this proposal. The EU must stop turning a blind eye to its own problems and those of the rest of the world”.

”It’s time for COVID-19 vaccines to be treated as a global common good, guaranteed for all”, underlines Papadimoulis, “We need to overcome the barriers and restrictions arising from patents and intellectual property rights in order to ensure the widespread production of vaccines and their timely distribution to all’.’

For this reason, The Left in the European Parliament immediately joined the call for a vaccine as a global common good and supported The European Citizen Initiative (ECI) #NoProfitOnPandemic from the beginning. The ECI through the collection of 1 million signatures across Europe is demanding that the  Commission introduce new laws and regulations on access to vaccines. 

“The European Commission needs to break with its submissiveness towards big business and start prioritizing public health. We need to choose between the profits of pharmaceutical multinationals or the right to health for all. It’s time to lift patents and share vaccine technology. This way, we can increase vaccine production and get out of this pandemic quicker. That is also what the European Citizens’ Initiative No Profit On Pandemic is asking for. With this campaign, we throw our full weight behind #VaccineEquality”, explains Botenga.

Join our Campaign and stand up for #VaccineEquality. How? Sign the ECI and invite your friends, family, and coworkers to do the same, it only takes a minute

Want to know more about the campaign? Check out our Q&A

Want to know more about the politics and the science behind vaccines? Click here for our #VaccineEquality must-reads: a weekly round-up of articles and reports giving you insight and analysis on vaccine politics and science. 

 Don’t forget to follow us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), you’ll find news, resources,  and graphic materials that can help you win the fight for #VaccineEquality.

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