People's Stories Advocates

View previous stories

Save millions of lives by providing equal access to the COVID-19 vaccines
by The People's Vaccine Alliance, agencies
Save millions of lives by providing equal access to the COVID-19 vaccines - The People's Vaccine Alliance
Our best chance of all staying safe is to ensure a COVID-19 vaccine is available for all as a global common good. This will only be possible with a transformation in how vaccines are produced and distributed — pharmaceutical corporations must allow the COVID-19 vaccines to be produced as widely as possible by sharing their knowledge free from patents.
Instead they are protecting their monopolies and putting up barriers to restrict production and drive up prices, leaving us all in danger. No one company can produce enough for the whole world. So long as vaccine solutions are kept under lock and key, there won’t be enough to go around. We need a People’s Vaccine, not a profit vaccine.
As you read this, governments and corporations are failing to make what should be the easiest possible choice: whether to save millions of lives by providing equal access to the COVID-19 vaccines.
Previously, the barrier to beating this cruel disease was science. Today it is inequality. We have the ability to vaccinate the world and to end this pandemic. But instead, rich countries are hoarding vaccines and protecting the profits of their pharmaceutical corporations instead of saving lives.
Insufficient vaccine supply combined with rich country hoarding of doses mean most people in developing countries faces this killer disease with minimal access to protection.
While public money funded the vaccine research, development and manufacturing, pharmaceutical corporations have a monopoly on how many doses are produced, who gets them and what price they pay. These corporations get to decide who lives and who dies.
This is entirely self-defeating. The virus is mutating all the time. The Omicron variant, which emerged in late 2021, has reduced the effectiveness of vaccines. Although vaccines continue to protect against severe disease and hospitalisation, there is no guarantee this will continue in the face of future variants. At the same time, the cost to the global economy of failing to vaccinate the world is estimated to be $9 trillion dollars.
Elected officials have the chance right now to end vaccine apartheid and save millions of lives.
Urgently agree and implement a global roadmap to deliver the WHO goal of fully vaccinating 70% of people by mid-2022. The roadmap should be based on a comprehensive global manufacturing and distribution plan for the vaccines and all COVID-19 products and technologies, fully funded with fair share financing from rich nations, and fair allocation of doses.
It must guarantee vaccines of sufficient number to fully vaccinate 70% of people in all countries by the mid-2022, including offering the vaccine to 100% of healthworkers in Low-Middle-Income Countries (LMICs), as well prioritising the most vulnerable and hard to reach groups.
Maximise the production of safe and effective vaccines and other COVID-19 products by suspending relevant intellectual property rules and ensuring the mandatory pooling of all COVID-19 related knowledge, data and technologies so that any nation can produce or buy sufficient and affordable doses of vaccines, treatments and tests.
Two key actions to take are:
1) Endorse and support the World Health Organisation COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) and regional mRNA hubs, to facilitate sharing vaccine, tests and treatments technologies, know-how and intellectual property, and use all policy and legal tools available to compel pharmaceutical corporations to contribute to them.
2) Immediately support the proposal by India and South Africa at the World Trade Organisation to temporarily waive relevant intellectual property rules under the Agreement of Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) for COVID-19 vaccines and other technologies.
Invest public funding now in a rapid and massive increase in vaccine manufacturing as well as research and development (R&D) capacity to build a global distributed network capable of and governed to deliver affordable vaccines as global public goods to all nations. All countries must invest in the creation of regional R&D and manufacturing hubs with priority given to new capacity in developing countries.
The African Union for example has set a target that it will manufacture 60% of its own vaccines. This financing should be based on a systemof fair share burden sharing. This should include and build on the new innovations in vaccine technology supercharged by the pandemic such as mRNA, and guarantee the long-term public investment needed to develop and maintain the human capital and physical manufacturing infrastructure required to meet needs now and for future pandemics.
Due to the clear failure of the market alone in ensuring enough vaccines, governments
should retain sufficient ownership of these new facilities and work in partnership with the WHO, to ensure their strategic direction and output serves public interest first.
Ensure COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests are sold to governments and institutions at a price as close to the true cost as possible, provided free of charge to everyone, everywhere, and allocated according to need.
Vaccines are global public goods and must be provided free of charge to people. They must also be sold to all governments and international institutions at a price as close to the ‘true cost’ as possible.
Governments should use all policy and legal tools possible to drive down the price of vaccines, tests and treatments to reflect ‘true cost’ and public funding levels to maximise affordability and secure the lowest possible price. Any profiteering from the pandemic by Pharmaceutical firms should not be tolerated, and governments should act fast to apply punitive measures to any company that is found to be profiteering.
Vaccine distribution plans should follow the WHO Equitable Allocation Framework with priority given to frontline workers, people at risk and resource-poor countries with the least capacity to save lives.
Allocation plans should be in the public domain and open to consultation and scrutiny and include all people regardless of nationality, residency, or identity. Marginalised groups should be part of the national vaccination programmes including refugees, prisoners, people with disabilities and indigenous populations.
Rich countries must contribute a proportion of doses secured from bilateral deals to COVAX, free of charge and in adherence to the ‘Principles for sharing COVID-19 vaccine doses with COVAX’.
Scale up sustainable investment in public health systems. Governments should urgently scale up national and global financial support for upgrading and expanding public health systems especially primary health care and for the millions of additional health workers needed for a successful vaccine roll out and for delivering everybody’s right to health care. Health services should be free at the point of use, and all user fees eliminated.
Sustained financing of healthcare is urgently needed to ensure global security from emerging diseases and realise the goal of Universal Health Coverage and achieve the right to health for all.
We must use the experience of the pandemic to transform health systems across the world – resilient, universal and equitable health systems are a global public good needed to respond to emergencies but also to protect and save lives every day.
Jan. 2022
More action needed to ensure older people everywhere benefit from vaccines now. (HelpAge International)
As the WHO Executive Board meets for its 150th session, HelpAge has shared a statement calling on the WHO and Member States to do more to address the continuing inequity of global vaccine distribution which is exposing millions of those most in need to unnecessary risk.
“Almost three quarters of those who have died from COVID-19 are aged over 60 and yet millions remain unable to access the vaccines which would protect them from the virus. This is a shocking statistic and a salient reminder that not enough has been done by the international community to protect those most at risk,” said Camilla Williamson, HelpAge’s healthy ageing adviser.
Despite an estimated 52.2 million older people living in sub-Saharan Africa, available WHO data shows less than 5 per cent of older people were fully vaccinated in many countries by end of December 2021. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, less than 1 per cent of their 4.3 million are fully vaccinated.
The full statement submitted by HelpAge to the WHO reads as follows:
"Older people make up an estimated 73 per cent of mortality from COVID-19 globally. They should be at the centre of pandemic preparedness and response.
But vaccine inequity means less than 5 per cent of older people are vaccinated in many countries in Africa. In two of those countries, you are more likely to be vaccinated if you are under 60, than if you are older. This is ageism.
Vaccine inequity between countries must end now. We must also deliver equity within countries by reaching those most at risk first.
Older people’s rights must be upheld by addressing the barriers they face in accessing vaccines, including ageism, and by engaging and empowering all groups of older people in risk communication and community engagement activity. WHO has a wealth of technical capacity on ageing they must promote among actors at all levels to strengthen responses.
HelpAge is working with older people and partners in Africa and other regions to reach those most at risk. We call for concerted and urgent action from WHO, Member States and others to achieve vaccine equity and access for older people everywhere now.”
Dec. 2021
World Health Assembly pandemic treaty: Ensure those most at risk at centre of pandemic prevention and response
As the World Health Assembly convenes a special session to discuss the potential of developing a future WHO convention on pandemic preparedness, HelpAge International addressed the meeting to call for any response to address the risks faced by older people and to uphold their rights.
HelpAge’s global healthy ageing adviser, Camilla Williamson, spoke to the Assembly to call for those most at risk to be at the centre of pandemic preparedness and response. In her statement she said:
“Age discrimination has gone unsanctioned during COVID-19, as a result of the lack of explicit mention of age in international law on public health emergencies. Ageist responses have been a death sentence for many older people.
“Millions have also been rendered invisible by the failure to collect, report and use age, sex and disability disaggregated data.
“Vaccine apartheid means that many of those most at risk in low-income countries are still unvaccinated. And even where vaccines are becoming available, older people living in poverty, along with those who are socially or geographically isolated or excluded or living in insecure situations are being left behind.
“This inequity must end, and any future pandemic instrument must ensure it is never repeated. The use of age as a ground for discrimination must also be prohibited.”
HelpAge also called for measures which ensure inclusive approaches to preparedness and response be included in any future WHO instrument, highlighting that this can only be achieved by meaningfully engaging with different groups of older people.
This is only the second time in history that a special session of the World Health Assembly has been convened by the WHO and is an acknowledgement of the urgent need to develop a future convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response.
The full statement, which was submitted jointly by HelpAge and the IFA (International Federation on Ageing), to the World Health Assembly is as follows:
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted in the most brutal ways the life and death consequences of infectious diseases, particularly for older age groups and other at-risk populations. During the first year of COVID-19, older people made up 84 per cent of mortality globally.
Those most at risk must be at the center of pandemic prevention and response. But during COVID-19 millions of older people have been left behind. Inequalities, discrimination, and ageism have led to violations of their human rights – including their right to health and their right to life.
The lack of explicit mention of age in international law on public health emergencies means age discrimination goes unsanctioned. Ageist responses have been a death sentence for many older people, while failure to collect, report and use age, sex and disability disaggregated data has left them invisible. A future pandemic treaty must end this.
It must prohibit the use of age as a ground for discrimination in pandemic responses and include measures to ensure all-of society approaches that meaningfully engage older people in building resilience to pandemics and in the design and delivery of responses.
Equity, as a principle and outcome, must guide the treaty. The inequity of the pandemic, which continues today in the vaccine apartheid, means we are in a situation where millions of those most at risk in low income countries, including older people, are still unvaccinated. Within countries, older people living in poverty and those who are socially and geographically isolated or excluded are most at risk of being left behind, including older women, older people with a disability or care need, older people from minority ethnic or religious groups, migrants and refugees, and those living in remote or insecure situations. This inequity must not be allowed to continue, and a future instrument must ensure it is never repeated.

Visit the related web page

Equality is at the heart of human rights
by Michelle Bachelet
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Dec. 2021
“The past two years have demonstrated, all too painfully, the intolerable cost of soaring inequalities. Inequalities that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly 73 years ago on 10 December 1948, sought to eradicate in its effort to pave a path to a better world.
The decades since then saw some very significant progress – gradual, uneven progress, with frequent set-backs, but definite progress nonetheless. The world as a whole grew richer, and people lived longer. More children went to school, and more women were able to gain a greater measure of autonomy. More people in more countries had more opportunities to break the shackles of poverty, class, caste and gender.
However, over the past twenty years, since 2001, a succession of global shocks have undermined that progress. And the onset of this devastating pandemic in 2020 has laid bare many of our failures to consolidate the advances we had made.
Inequalities have fuelled the pandemic, and continue to do so. In turn, the pandemic has fed a frightening rise in inequalities, leading to disproportionate transmission and death rates in the most marginalized communities, as well as contributing to soaring poverty levels, increased hunger, and plummeting living standards. These in turn risk fuelling grievances, social unrest and even full-blown conflict.
Women, low-income and informal workers, younger and older people, and those with disabilities, as well as members of ethnic, racial and religious minorities and indigenous peoples are among those hit hardest, creating even greater age, gender and racial inequalities.
Inequalities have widened both within and between countries, with most developed economies forecast to grow in 2022, while the lowest-income countries are projected to endure continued recession, pushing their people even further behind.
This divergence has been aggravated by shockingly unequal vaccine coverage – by 1 December, barely 8% of adults had received one dose of vaccine in low-income families, compared to 65% in high-income countries – and by shortfalls in social protections, which in the developed world kept many people afloat during the worst months of the crisis.
In Europe, for example, according to the IMF at least 54 million jobs were supported between March and October 2020, keeping people and companies from going under. Such assistance was much less available in other regions.
The environmental crisis is further exacerbating discrimination, marginalization, and inequity. A total of 389 climate-related disasters were recorded in 2020 affecting 98 million, and inflicting $171 billion in economic damage. Climate-related migration is also on the rise. Actions to address these crises are not sufficient to avert these devastating human rights consequences, with affected communities often shut out of environmental decision-making processes where their input is essential.
A growing debt crisis is also weighing heavily on many countries. Globally, over half of least-developed and low-income countries are now in, or at high risk of, debt distress. In East and Southern Africa, debt-servicing costs grew, on average, from 60 percent of GDP in 2018 to nearly 70 percent of GDP in 2021. This is due in part to sharply shrinking economic activity and falling commodities prices. The need to repay loans has already led to imposed fiscal austerity measures that will limit the fiscal space for key investments in socio-economic rights and crucial social support policies and sustainable recovery.
Austerity budgets often target health, education, infrastructure investment, and poverty reduction efforts. They disproportionally impact people in low income and vulnerable situations – increasing inequalities that were already stark.
This is a critical period in world affairs. Humanity is reeling from the setbacks sparked by COVID-19, and struggling to make the changes necessary to prevent further environmental disaster.
Yet the measures needed to prevent catastrophic climate change are well-known. And, even in resource-poor environments, we have the knowledge and means to establish universal social protection measures and take the necessary actions to end discrimination, advance the rule of law and uphold human rights.
The Common Agenda set out by the UN Secretary-General in September 2021 calls for renewed solidarity between peoples and future generations; a new social contract anchored in human rights; better management of critical issues involving peace, development, health and our planet; and a revitalised multilateralism that can meet the challenges of our times. This is an agenda of action – and an agenda of rights.
It means moving from the temporary pandemic measures to shore up health care and income protection to long-term investments in universal social protections – including universal health coverage – as well as decent housing, decent work, and access to quality education. It also means investment to bridge the digital divide.
It means decisive action to uphold climate justice and the universal human right to a healthy environment.
It means empowering people everywhere to speak up freely, and protecting civic space so that individuals can meaningfully participate in decisions that may have a dramatic impact on their lives.
Equality is at the heart of human rights, and at the heart of the solutions required to carry us through this period of global crisis. That doesn’t mean we must all look the same, think the same or act the same. Quite the opposite.
It means that we embrace our diversity and demand that we are all treated without any kind of discrimination. Equality is about empathy and solidarity and about understanding that, as a common humanity, our only way forward is to work together for the common good.
This was well understood during the years of rebuilding after World War II – the years that saw the development of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the subsequent elaboration of the all-embracing system of international human rights law.
However, our failure to build back better after the financial crisis a decade ago, coupled with the social and economic turmoil caused by COVID-19 and the rapidly accelerating impacts of climate change, suggests we have forgotten the clear and proven remedies rooted in human rights and the importance of tackling inequalities.
Remedies we must bring back to the forefront if we want to maintain progress – not just for those who suffer from the gross inequalities that blight our planet, but for the sake of all of us. On this Human Rights Day, I invite everyone to join efforts to enhance equality for everyone everywhere, so that we can recover better, fairer and greener from this crisis, and rebuild societies that are more resilient and sustainable.”

Visit the related web page

View more stories

Submit a Story Search by keyword and country Guestbook