The People's Vaccine Alliance (PVA) in Asia will call on Japan, Singapore and South Korea to support the 'temporary TRIPS Waiver' proposal at the World Trade Organization's general council meeting tomorrow.
A temporary waiver of WTO intellectual property rules during the Covid-19 pandemic, proposed by South Africa and India and supported by more than 100 WTO member states and numerous health experts worldwide, is a vital, necessary and urgent step to bring an end to this pandemic, said PVA in an appeal letter to the three Asian countries.
The appeal letter to the governments has been signed by 100 organisations including ActionAid, APCASO, Asia Dalit Rights Forum, Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), Oxfam international, South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication, Fight Inequality Alliance India and 50 prominent CSO individuals.
"WTO TRIPS waiver must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly. This can be achieved through the World Health Organization COVID-19 Technology Access Pool," said PVA in a statement today.
These actions would expand global manufacturing capacity, unhindered by industry monopolies that are driving the dire supply shortages blocking vaccine access, it said.
Compared to the terrifying speed at which the virus is spreading and mutating, as most recently being seen in India, scaling up global Covid-19 vaccination access and inoculation have been painfully slow.
Most of the world's population, especially in middle- and lower-income countries, lack access to the vaccine. At the speed with which it is proceeding, it will take decades to vaccinate all who need it.
The Covid-19 vaccines are owned by big pharmaceutical corporations who are refusing to share the science and technology that could speed up mass production and distribution for the entire planet.
"No single corporation will ever be able to produce enough vaccine doses quickly for everyone who needs it. If history has taught us anything, it is that pharmaceutical corporations create and protect monopolies in order to maximise profits instead of improving public health," said Karyn Kaplan of Asia Catalyst.
"We have seen this in the past with vital medicines for illnesses like HIV or cancer that have been priced far too high, out of reach for most people."
"When the pharmacy of the world is gasping for breath, keeping monopoly over vaccine science for purpose of profit is immoral, collective failure and self-defeating," said Mustafa Talpur, campaign and advocacy manager of Oxfam International in Asia.
All these roadblocks to control Covid-19 spread are surmountable. The Asia region has a world-class generic pharmaceutical industry with a little more shared technology and know-how, Asia-based companies can quickly support new manufacturing capacity in other countries, thereby reducing the negative impact of Covid and improving response capacity for future pandemics.
Countries in Asia, including China, India, Thailand, and others have demonstrated capacity to produce vaccines.
"Vaccine equity will directly improve health outcomes, as no one is safe until everyone is safe. It is key to the enjoyment of human rights and is equally vital to a comprehensive economic rebuilding out of inequality, poverty and hunger," said Sandeep Chachra, executive director of ActionAid Association India.
"There is no time to lose! This is an urgent call for a solidaristic, humanitarian and accountable response to save millions of Asian people."