Campaigners say poorer countries must be vaccinated
Campaigners and scientists have warned that upholding intellectual property on Covid-19 vaccines and treatments risks a return to lockdowns after coronavirus restrictions are eased today (19 July).
Allowing the virus to spread in low-and-middle-income countries with low vaccination rates risks “producing variants instead of vaccines”, scientists warn, which campaigners say could send the UK’s vaccine programme “right back to square one”.
Two-thirds of epidemiologists at world-leading institutions have warned that allowing coronavirus to spread in poorer countries could render our current vaccines ineffective within a year. Just 1% of people in low-income countries have received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose, according to Oxford University.
Nine months ago, India and South Africa proposed to waive intellectual property rules on Covid-19 vaccines and treatments at the World Trade Organisation, which would allow low-and-middle-income countries to produce their own vaccines.
More than 130 countries now support the waiver, including the United States and France. But Germany and the United Kingdom have blocked the proposal so far.
Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said: “There will be no so-called ‘freedom day’ for most of the world, who may wait 57 years to receive Covid-19 vaccines at present rates. And with the virus spreading unabated in low-and-middle-income countries, new variants could threaten the UK’s vaccine programme, sending us right back to square one.
“If the government wants to make this unlocking irreversible, they should stop blocking global efforts to scale up vaccine production by waiving intellectual property on Covid-19 vaccines. Patents are the biggest blocker to global vaccination. By upholding them at all costs, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Stephen Reicher, Professor of Social Psychology at the University of St Andrew’s and member of the SAGE subcommittee on behavioural science, said: “We need urgent action to allow poorer countries to produce their own safe, effective vaccines for their populations by waiving patents. That would be a truly remarkable gift to the world. It would help increase our standing in the world at a time when we so badly need trading partners. And ultimately it is the only means of consigning Covid to history and so ending the threat of further lockdowns for good”.