In an open letter coordinated by UNAID and Oxfam, more than 140 high-level personalities require that all COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests be made patent-free, distributed equitably and made available to all, in all countries, free of charge.
The joint document reads that today, humanity, in all its fragility, is looking for an effective and safe vaccine against COVID-19. It is our best hope to end this painful global pandemic.
We call on the ministers of health at the World Health Assembly to urgently rally behind a popular vaccine against this disease. Governments and international partners must unite around a global guarantee that when a safe and effective vaccine is developed, it is produced quickly on a large scale and made available to everyone, in all countries, free of charge. The same applies to all treatments, diagnostics and other technologies for COVID-19.
We recognize that many countries and international organizations are moving towards this goal, cooperating at the multilateral level in research and development, funding and access, including the $ 8 billion welcome announced on May 4. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the public and private sectors and billions of dollars of publicly funded research, many vaccine candidates are advancing at unprecedented speed and many have started clinical trials.
Our world will only be safer if everyone can benefit from science and have access to a vaccine – and that is a political challenge. The World Health Assembly must forge a global agreement that guarantees rapid universal access to quality vaccines and treatments, with needs taking precedence over ability to pay.
It is time for health ministers to renew the commitments made when the World Health Organization was founded, where all states agreed to provide the highest attainable standard of health as a human right for every human being.
Now is not the time to put the interests of the wealthiest societies and governments ahead of the universal need to save lives, or to leave this massive and moral task to market forces. Access to vaccines and treatment as global public goods is in the interest of all humanity. We cannot allow monopolies, brutal competition and myopic nationalism to stand in the way.
We must heed the warning that those who do not remember the past are bound to repeat it. We must learn the painful lessons from a history of unequal access in the fight against diseases such as HIV and Ebola. But we must also remember the revolutionary victories of health movements, including AIDS activists and activists who fought for access to affordable medicines for all.
Applying both lessons, we call for a global agreement on COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and treatments implemented under the leadership of the World Health Organization which:
Ensures mandatory global sharing of all knowledge, data and technologies related to COVID-19 with a pool of COVID-19 licenses available free of charge in all countries. Countries should be empowered and allowed to make full use of the guarantees and flexibilities agreed in the WTO Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health to protect access to medicines for all.
Establishes a global and fair manufacturing and rapid distribution plan fully funded by affluent countries for the vaccine and all COVID-19 products and technologies that ensures transparency at true cost and supplies as needed. There is an urgent need to begin massively strengthening the global capacity to manufacture billions of doses of vaccines and to recruit and train the millions of paid and protected health workers needed to deliver them.
Guarantees COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics, tests and treatments are provided free of charge to everyone, everywhere. Access must be prioritized as a priority for frontline workers, the most vulnerable and poor countries least able to save lives.
In doing so, no one can be left behind. Transparent democratic governance must be put in place by WHO, including independent expertise and partners from civil society, which is essential to guarantee accountability for this agreement.
In doing so, we also recognize the urgent need to reform and strengthen public health systems worldwide, removing all barriers so that the rich and poor alike can access the health care, technology and medicines they need, free of charge when they need it.
Only a vaccine for peoples based on equality and solidarity can protect all of humanity and put our societies back in safety. A bold international agreement cannot wait.
Among those who signed,
- Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal
- Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana
- Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa
- Cassam Uteem – President of Mauritius (1992-2002)
- Moussa Faki, President of the African Union Commission
- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic ofLiberia (2006-2018)
- Olusegun Obasanjo, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999-2007) and champion of an AIDS-free generation
- Michel Sidib – Minister of Health and Social Affairs of Mali
- Pierre Somse – Minister of Health and Population of the Central African Republic
- Aminata Touré, Prime Minister of Senegal (2013-2014)
- Mehdi Jomaa, Tunisian Prime Minister (2014-2015)
- Hifikepunye Pohamba – President of the Republic of Namibia (2005-2015) and Champion for an AIDS-free generation
- Joaquim Chissano – President of the Republic of Mozambique (1986-2005) and champion of an AIDS-free generation
- Joyce Banda – President of the Republic of Malawi (2012-2014) and champion for an AIDS-free generation
- Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO (2009-2017)
- Ann Veneman – Executive Director of UNICEF (2005-2010)
- Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (2007-2010)
- Imran Khan, Prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
- Mario Monti, Italian Prime Minister (2011-2013)
- Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia (2010-2018)
- Viktor Yushchenko, President of Ukraine (2005-2010)
- Kateryna Yushchenko – First Lady of Ukraine (2005-2010)
- Horst Köhler, President of Germany (2004-2010)
- Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Health of France (1992-1993, 1997-1999, 2001-2002), Minister of Foreign Affairs of France (2007-2010); founder of Mdecins sans frontières / Médecins sans frontières (MSF) and Mdecins du Monde / Médecins du Monde (MdM)
- Margot Wallstrm – Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden (2014-2019)
- Jos Luis Rodrguez Zapatero – President of the Spanish government (2004-2011)
- Valdis Zatlers – President of Latvia (2007-2011)
- Ernesto Zedillo – President of Mexico (1994-2000)