Recently, a number of feminists, and feminist organizations met to analyze the root causes of the unequal access to health and life-saving vaccines globally. A key factor contributing to this injustice is the hoarding of vaccines by wealthy Northern States and the interference of powerful transnational corporations and philanthrocapitalists in the efforts to secure an affordable global Covid-19 vaccine.
In the ongoing global pandemic, wealthy states and corporations continue to put nationalism and profits ahead of peoples’ health and lives. We reject market-driven solutions for health, rights and justice as contrary to feminist values.
The affordability and availability of vaccines – global public goods – is being held at ransom by high-income states and pharmaceutical corporations. Vaccine nationalism stands in the way of an equitable distribution of COVID-19 preventative vaccines, as wealthy Northern countries are hoarding these resources in excessive amounts at the expense of the rest of the world. These countries went ahead to reserve billions of doses (even before approval for use) in numbers that could vaccinate their citizens many times over.This has created an artificial shortage of vaccines In February 2021, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated that at least 130 countries are yet to receive a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
It is clear the global demand for vaccines far outweighs the current supply. However, high income countries, backed and lobbied by powerful corporations, oppose the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Waiver of intellectual property protections related to COVID vaccines. The TRIPS waiver would enable temporary suspension of intellectual property rights such as patents and copyrights, to boost the global manufacturing capacity for vaccines to meet the current need. The interference of philanthrocapitalism further undermines vaccine justice. The Gates Foundation, known for facilitating corporate takeover of seed, agriculture and health systems, reportedly pressured the University of Oxford to reverse their decision to work non-exclusively and royalty-free with multiple partners. The fact that the Gates Foundation has invested directly in some of the big pharmaceutical corporations, and its top leadership is comprised of former employees at some of the Big Pharma, points to conflicts of interest at the least.
WE INVITE FEMINIST AND GENDER JUSTICE MOVEMENTS AROUND THE WORLD TO SPEAK UP AND DEMAND:
- ALL countries to unconditionally support the TRIPS waiver at the World Trade Organization (WTO) as proposed by India, South Africa and endorsed by other states to resist the monopoly of publicly-funded research and information by corporations and abide by their obligations to ensure universal and equitable access of COVID-vaccines. This would allow pharmaceutical companies around the world to produce the vaccines people so desperately need.
- Support for a legally binding international treaty on business and human rights that will prevent powerful transnational corporations from exploiting the underfunding of public health services and international health institutions. The invisible power wielded by corporations, particularly big pharmaceuticals, remains unchecked and leaves the door open for impunity. Initiatives like COVAX created to bridge vaccine inequality are not enough – we must challenge the political and economic forces that generate this inequality in the first place.
- States and multilateral institutions to safeguard public institutions and research facilities to preserve their independence in the face of corporate interests to profit from the pandemic; and guarantee, respect and promote “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”. Public health must be safeguarded against political and profit interests that eventually condemn millions to their deaths.
Our world is facing unprecedented challenges that can only be overcome by challenging vaccine nationalism and resisting corporate dominance in our health and our lives. This includes opposition to philantrocapitalism that effectively promotes privatization of public goods, including life-saving medicines.
We have much to learn from the social movements organizing at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Without the combined efforts of people living with HIV and AIDs, LGBTIQ and feminist movements, civil society, academics, progressive policy makers and public pressure, efforts to secure low-cost generic medicines and successes towards eliminating HIV/AIDS would not have been possible. Now is the time to stop the pandemic profiteers. It is time for us, the people and our feminist and social movements, to demand free and accessible vaccines and health for all.
The statement has been formulated by the participants of the #VaccineJustice teach-in and strategy session, organized by: African Center for Biodiversity (ACBIO), Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), Global JusticeNow, Realising Sexual and Reproductive Justice (RESURJ), Transnational Institute (TNI) and Treatment Action Campaign (TAC)