The COVID-19 pandemic has had severe implications for countries with already fragile social, economic, and political systems. Countries experiencing fragility, conflict, and recurring disasters are now facing additional burdens.
In countries where access to basic health and sanitation services are lacking, populations are experiencing inhumane conditions and are bearing some of the highest numbers of COVID-19 related deaths. These circumstances are further aggravated by political stances that prioritize the economy over life. The COVID-19 pandemic is uncovering inequalities and is exacerbating already existing poverty and injustices.
International collaboration and solidarity are essential to combatting the pandemic. While all governments and institutions should be ensuring inclusive, safe, and immediate medical access to their people, the reality is that some governments are withdrawing their international commitment to public health. This is raising human rights concerns.
Given that the need for a COVID-19 vaccine will be global, a shortage of supply is to be expected. While governments are already developing initiatives to grant their citizens immunization, a “first come, first served” approach risks leaving the most vulnerable behind and could trigger a humanitarian catastrophe with “winners” and “losers”.
It is also concerning that some governments are investing in the research and development of the vaccine primarily for economic and political purposes rather than advancing universal solidarity and humanity.
Achieving global, equitable, and criteria-based access and distribution of vaccines will not be an easy task. The rise of populism and nationalism presents a challenge to multilateralism and international cooperation and solidarity. As we have seen in the past few months, the hoarding of medical supplies and unilateral policies do not work when faced with a global crisis of such magnitude. Therefore, ACT Alliance:
- Supports the call of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance for governments to provide equal access to vaccines for all, and in particular, for those at the heart of the pandemic and in greatest need.
- Supports the joint efforts by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI) to develop and secure COVID-19 vaccines on an equitable basis.
- Urges governments and the pharmaceutical industry to establish a global mechanism, under the leadership of WHO in collaboration with Gavi and CEPI, to ensure an equitable and criteria-based distribution of the new vaccine. This framework must be organized around the principles of global solidarity, inclusion, and justice and should establish transparent criteria on how to prioritize vaccine allocation.
- Requests governments to refrain from exclusively prioritizing the vaccination of their own populations but rather to give priority to those most in need, especially vulnerable people living at the epicenter of the pandemic.
- Calls for the engagement of humanitarian agencies and organizations in the access and distribution of the future COVID-19 vaccine. As frontlines working at the heart of the pandemic, humanitarian agencies and NGOs are able to reach the most vulnerable communities, including migrants, internally displaced people and refugees.
Rudelmar Bueno de Faria
General Secretary ACT Alliance