The pandemic is not under control. The health catastrophe in India is an evidence of this, but also the situation in Russia, Brazil, Chile, South Africa, Great Britain, etc. In many countries, vaccines are still scarce or non-existent. The donation of vaccines from rich to less rich or poor countries is far from to allow vaccinating all populations at risk. Moreover, it is not known whether current vaccines will be effective in protecting against the emergence of eventually new and more aggressive variants.
With this statement, we join the UNESCO ethics commission in affirming that the “availability of vaccines to all people in all countries, is an essential ethical issue“ and, thus, vaccines must become “global common goods”.
We support the commitment of India and South Africa, supported by a hundred countries including China and Russia, then by the United States and now by France, to achieve inside the World Trade Organisation (WTO) the free exploitation of the licences on the production of Covid vaccines, as requested by the WFSW with various progressive movements. Unfortunately, countries participating in the WTO (whose decisions are taken unanimously), notably Germany and the United Kingdom, are opposed to the release of these licences. They are seeking to protect the big pharmaceutical groups and their huge profits. It will therefore not be possible in the short term to promote the spread of vaccine manufacturing techniques that would enable many regions and countries to protect their populations.
It is therefore very likely that the pandemic will not be contained soon.
Also, it is necessary to recall the efforts of the WHO to develop cooperation between countries in the health and scientific fields. This is the most promising way forward. To do this, we must free ourselves from the domination of financial and mercantile logics.
We need to develop fundamental knowledge on this disease as well as on the new zoonoses that are sure to arise. Support for public research centres and their synergy must be developed. Vaccine research must be supported, and also, research into treatments. At the same time, public policy must be protected against conflicts of interest that may undermine the promotion of the most effective care and against the mistrust, or even hostility, of many people towards vaccination. It is essential to support health facilities and increase the number of health workers at a time when many countries – especially from the South, from where large numbers of doctors and paramedics migrate- are experiencing the setbacks and shortcomings highlighted by the pandemic.
The pandemic has spread in the midst of the accelerating climate change. It reminds us that the international economic model affects not only the environment but also the human health. This decade will be crucial to better protect humanity from massive and deadly disasters.
We call on our colleagues to join the movements to change the way we produce, consume and care for life on Earth in general and our fellow human beings in particular.
The International Secretariat