A unified appeal, signed by 105 world leaders, including 18 Nobel laureates, 32 former heads of state and government, political leaders, artistes, international NGOs and institutions, has urged governments, foundations, philanthropists and social businesses to come forward and produce and distribute Covid-19 vaccines all over the world for free.
"We invite all social, political, and health entities to re-affirm our collective responsibility for the protection of all vulnerable persons without any discrimination whatsoever," read a press release issued yesterday by the Yunus Centre.
The call, initiated by the Centre, was signed by Nobel laureates Muhammad Yunus, Tawakkol Karman, Shirin Ebadi, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nadia Murad, Malala Yousafzai, Mairead Maguire, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu among others.
The former heads of state who signed this unified appeal include former prime minister of Pakistan Shaukat Aziz, former PM of New Zealand Helen Clark, former PM of Italy Romano Prodi, former president of Brazil Luiz Inacio, former president of Mauritius Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, and former PM of the UK Gordon Brown.
Others include former presidents and prime ministers of Romania, Finland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Croatia, Poland, Moldova, Albania, Bulgaria, Mexico, Ireland, Ecuador, Latvia, Montenegro, Serbia, Belgium, Hungary, Malaysia, Kyrgyzstan, Andorra and Georgia.
Notable artists signing the statement include Shabana Azmi, Andrea Bocelli, Bono, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Sharon Stone, Jimmy Wales, Forest Whitaker and others.
Business leaders who expressed solidarity include the founder of Virgin Group Sir Richard Branson, former CEO of Unilever Ltd Paul Polman, co-founder of Infosys Narayana Murthy, former chairman of Tata Sons and Tata Group Ratan Tata, Sudanese-British billionaire Mo Ibrahim. Other noteworthy signatories include chairman of King Faisal Foundation HRH Prince Turki bin Faisal, former astronaut Ron Garan, president of Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Kerry Kennedy, founder of Khan Academy Salman Khan, former vice presidents of the World Bank Justin Yifu Lin and Mats Karlsson, human rights activist Marina Mahathir, mayor of Paris Ann Hidalgo, former secretary general of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, and others.
The effectiveness of the upcoming vaccination campaign will depend on its universality. Governments, foundations, international financial organisations like the World Bank and the regional development banks should work out details of how to make the vaccines available free of cost, read the appeal.
They said results of vaccine research done by the private sector should be in the public domain, making it available to any production facility that pledges to operate under strict international regulatory supervision and only to such facilities.
They urged the World Health Organization to design a World Action Plan for the Covid-19 vaccine.
"We appeal to them to set up an international committee responsible for monitoring the vaccine research and to assure equal access to the vaccine for all countries and all people within a publicly announced predetermined time frame."
The signatories are pleading to all world leaders, including the secretary-general of the United Nations, director general of the World Health Organization, religious leaders, social and moral leaders, leaders of research laboratories and pharmaceutical companies, and the media to join hands and ensure that in the case of a Covid-19 vaccine, everyone shares a the consensus that it must be deployed as a global common good.