Summit for Vaccine Internationalism

Image: Min An


G7 leaders are to blame for vaccine nationalism – this shameful stance will prolong the pandemic.

Last week, the presidents and prime ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) – with the introduction of the British Boris Johnson and the Canadian Justin Trudeau – met in Cornwall with the task of developing a plan to end the Covid pandemic. -19, which has claimed at least 4 million lives, counting continues.

Failed. In simple terms, the announced plan to donate 1 billion doses of the vaccine against Covid-19 is too slow and ridiculous to stop the vicious spread of the virus. He allocates less than 10% of the doses needed to vaccinate the world, and distributes them over a year and a half. As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “We need more than that”.

The victims of this failure are not just vulnerable communities in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa or Southeast Asia, which at current rates, according to Alliance research, would take 57 years to achieve mass vaccination. By allowing mutated strains to emerge and spread, the G7 plan threatens to bring the pandemic back to countries like Canada and the UK, erasing the progress we've already made to protect our communities from the virus.

We urgently need an alternative to the G7 plan – one that is global, viable and seriously focused on ending the pandemic rather than protecting pharmaceutical corporations or selling our countries a charitable goodwill plot.

That's why we're joining forces with governments, health officials and vaccine manufacturers around the world in a Summit for Vaccine Internationalism. Organized by Progressive International, the summit aims to develop a common plan to vaccinate the world by sharing technology, investing in the production and delivery of vaccines to all parts of the planet. Far from a podium for political statements, the summit calls on all participants to make concrete commitments towards a real alternative to the G7's failed plan.

We know these commitments start at home – in Canada and the UK. Our governments have played a disgraceful role in prolonging this pandemic. They are to blame precisely for the vaccine nationalism that the summit seeks to supplant.

In the UK, the Boris Johnson government has been an ardent opponent of the waiver of vaccine intellectual property that has been filed with the World Trade Organization (WTO) by more than 100 nations across the world. Even as countries like the US, France and Spain have softened their stance on vaccine patents, the UK continues to ignore pleas from scientists, doctors and citizens to speed up vaccine production, freeing up the technology of pharmaceutical corporations like AstraZeneca – despite of the AstraZeneca vaccine allegedly being funded with 97% of UK public funds.

In Canada, the government of Justin Trudeau has not fared better. Trudeau may claim that Canada is “not interfering or blocking” the global effort to de-patent vaccines, but records show otherwise. Just last month, for example, the Bolivian government reached an agreement with Canadian drug maker Biolyse to acquire desperately needed vaccines for the South American country, which has only managed to vaccinate 5% of its citizens. But the Trudeau government refused to grant the mandatory license that would allow Biolyse to produce the vaccines.

In December, the Trudeau government asked proponents of withdrawal at the WTO for “concrete” evidence that the patents restricted their access to Covid-19 vaccines. Now, the Bolivian government has provided it – but the Canadian government continues to support the dismantled pharmaceutical system, with deadly effect.

Furthermore, Canada's failure to recover a publicly owned laboratory, Connaught Laboratories, which was privatized in the 80s, has cost Canadians and the world this pandemic. Connaught was at the forefront of vaccine innovation nationally and internationally. Without it, Canada would not be able to publicly produce vaccines for its own citizens during this pandemic, nor produce vaccines to share with the world.

The Summit for Vaccine Internationalism is an opportunity for us to hear from participants such as Rogelio Mayta, Bolivia's foreign minister, about the challenges facing his country, the opportunities for cooperation from the Global South to end the pandemic, and the obligation history that we have to help them.

We are outraged but not surprised by the G7 leaders' failure to fulfill this obligation. Now we have an opportunity to come together in a global meeting to get serious about producing, distributing and delivering vaccines to the world. We hope you will join us.

*Jeremy Corbyn is a member of the English parliament. it was lLeader of the Labor Party and Leader of the Opposition in the UK House of Commons from 2015 to 2020.

*Niki Ashton is a member of the Canadian House of Commons.

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

Originally published in the newspaper The Independent.


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