GENEVA —The UNAIDS Executive Director Eng. Winnie Karagwa Byanyima has rallied the World Health Assembly slated for Monday 18 to ensure a mandatory worldwide pooling of patents and sharing of all COVID-19-related knowledge, data and technologies in order to ensure that any nation can produce or buy affordable doses of vaccines, treatments and tests is reached.
Eng. Byanyima made the call in a short video clip posted on Saturday May 16, rallying that no one should be sent to the back of a COVID-19 queue because of the color of their skin or money in their pocket.
Over 140 global leaders and experts on Thursday issued an open letter urging world powers to guarantee that both a coronavirus vaccine and any treatment for COVID-19, when available, be free for everyone in order to put the “the interests of all humanity” ahead of those of the wealthiest corporations and governments.
The letter, jointly coordinated by UNAIDS and Oxfam, warns that the world cannot afford monopolies and competition to stand in the way of the universal need to save lives.
The letter, “Uniting Behind a People’s Vaccine Against Covid-19,” is signed by current and former heads of state including Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and South Africa’s President Cyceli Ramaphosa as well as other notable figures including former United Nations special rapporteur Philip Alston and economist and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz.
“Faced with this crisis, we cannot carry on business as usual,” Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand, said in a statement.
“Diplomatic platitudes are not enough—we need legal guarantees, and we need them now.”
The global leaders call comes days ahead of the World Health Organization’s World Health Assembly.
At that virtual meeting, scheduled for Monday, the letter signatories say health ministers must remember the WHO’s founding principle to help achieve “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being.”
Eng. Byanyima has added her voice— calling on leaders to guarantee that the vaccine will be produced rapidly, at large scale and made available for all people in all countries free of charge.
“The same applies to all treatments, test and other technologies. No one should be sent to the back of COVID-19 queue because of the color of their skin or the money in their pockets,” she said.
Eng. Byanyima added:
“We must repeat the painfully history of an equal access which let to thousands of lives lost to HIV & AIDS and Ebola. Instead, let us be inspired by the groundbreaking victory of AIDS activists. They taught us that real change only happens when people stand together”.
The EU has proposed the voluntary pooling of patents for coronavirus vaccines, treatments, and tests in their draft resolution for the World Health Assembly. If made mandatory and worldwide, this would ensure that all countries could produce, or import low cost versions, of any available vaccines, treatments, and tests.
However, leaked documents reveal that the Trump administration is trying to delete references to pooled patents and insert strong language on respecting the patents of the pharmaceutical industry.
This would give pharmaceutical companies exclusive rights to produce, and set prices for, any vaccines, treatments and tests they develop – even if taxpayer money has been used to fund their research and development