In June and July this year, we asked you to push the UK Government to urgently share its surplus COVID-19 vaccines to help countries around the world protect their populations from the virus. Three months on, some 5.9 billion doses of vaccines have been administered worldwide, but the distribution of these remains highly unequal. In the UK, 71% of the population is now partly or fully vaccinated, yet for low income countries, the figure is only around 2%, and commitments made by rich countries to share doses are a long way from being met. The UK has pledged to share 80 million doses of vaccines via the ‘COVAX’ facility, yet to date only around 6% of these have been delivered, with many of those having been supplied close to their expiry date.
Dose sharing helps in the short term, but the current system isn’t working: countries need to be able to produce their own vaccines to meet demand. Pharmaceutical companies that have made huge profits from vaccine development have not shared the rights or information needed for this to happen. India and South Africa proposed a waiver of the intellectual property (‘IP’) rights to the vaccine formulas that would allow them to be shared for the common good, and dozens of countries now support this move. But a small number of countries, including the UK, are blocking this sharing from happening, using World Trade Organization (WTO) rules known as ‘TRIPS’, or ‘Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights’ as justification. The UK must agree to a TRIPS waiver that would allow the manufacture of vaccines without IP barriers.
This month, please write to the Prime Minister, asking for faster and more effective delivery of doses, and support for a TRIPS waiver to enable a sustainable global response to the pandemic.
The Action Sheet below contains all the information you need to understand the issue and to take action, including links to further reading. Please also refer to the Background Sheets we produced in June and July this year, which explain the issues around COVID-19 dose sharing and the barriers to vaccine equity (including TRIPS) in more depth.
If you missed our conference call on this topic, you can rewatch it here.
Image credit: Jess Hurd/Global Justice Now. Global Justice Now and The People’s Vaccine projection campaigning for global vaccine equality at the offices of the Association for the British Pharmaceuticals Industry, Westminster, London, 8 March 2021.