Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

A coalition of healthcare advocacy community organizations gathered outside Pfizer Worldwide Headquarters in Manhattan on March 11, 2021.

A coalition of healthcare advocacy community organizations gathered outside Pfizer Worldwide Headquarters in Manhattan on March 11, 2021. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

'It Is About Saving Lives': Doctors Without Borders Calls on US, EU to Stop Blocking Vaccine Patent Waiver

"We urge all countries in opposition to this, including the U.S. and the E.U., to stand on the right side of history and join hands with those in support."

Jake Johnson

The international humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders on Wednesday implored the United States, European Union member nations, and other rich countries to immediately end their opposition to South Africa and India's patent waiver proposal, which would enable the mass production of generic coronavirus vaccines to meet the developing world's dire needs.

"It is about saving lives at the end, not protecting systems."
—Dr. Maria Guevara, Doctors Without Borders

"In this Covid-19 pandemic, we are once again faced with issues of scarcity, which can be addressed through diversification of manufacturing and supply capacity and ensuring the temporary waiver of relevant intellectual property," Dr. Maria Guevara, international medical secretary of Doctors Without Borders, said in a statement.

"We urge all countries in opposition to this, including the U.S. and the E.U., to stand on the right side of history and join hands with those in support," said Guevara. "It is about saving lives at the end, not protecting systems."

Doctors Without Borders' call came as a World Trade Organization (WTO) council is set to hold an informal meeting Thursday to discuss the proposed intellectual property waiver, which has garnered the support of more than 100 WTO member nations as well as hundreds of civil society organizations, former world leaders, and Nobel Prize-winning economists.

But the U.S. and European countries have repeatedly objected, denying the WTO the consensus support necessary to move forward with the waiver and keeping vaccine production under the control of profit-driven pharmaceutical companies that have lobbied aggressively against the proposal.

With strict intellectual property rules in place, low-income countries have been left largely without access to life-saving vaccines as infections continue to surge across the globe, leading experts to fear the emergence of vaccine-resistant strains that could prolong the global pandemic.

Earlier this month, the head of the World Health Organization estimated that just 0.2% of the vaccine doses administered globally have gone to people in low-income nations as rich countries swallow up much of the existing supply, leaving them with massive surpluses.

The editorial board of Nature, a leading scientific journal, recently observed that "the world needs around 11 billion doses of coronavirus vaccine to immunize 70% of the world's population, assuming two doses per person."

"At a time when more than three million lives have already been lost to Covid-19, we urge countries to take all possible measures, including supporting this waiver, to be able to protect everyone, everywhere during this pandemic." —Dr. Márcio da Fonseca, Doctors Without Borders

"As of [February], orders had been confirmed for 8.6 billion doses, a remarkable achievement. But some 6 billion of these will go to high- and upper-middle-income countries," the board noted. "Poorer nations—which account for 80% of the world's population—so far have access to less than one-third of the available vaccines."

Doctors Without Borders said Wednesday that it was encouraged by U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai's comments last week at a virtual WTO conference, where she said that "the significant inequities we are seeing in access to vaccines between developed and developing countries are completely unacceptable."

"Extraordinary times require extraordinary leadership, communication, and creativity," said Tai. "Extraordinary crises challenge all of us to break out of our comfortable molds, our in-the-box thinking, our instinctive habits."

Tai went on to say that "there are many aspects of the institution of the WTO and its rules that have not adapted to a changed world," but she did not provide any indication that the Biden administration plans to throw U.S. support behind India and South Africa's proposal, which would allow generic manufacturers to replicate vaccine formulas.

The WTO is expected to consider the waiver once again during its next general meeting in May.

Dr. Márcio da Fonseca, infectious disease adviser for Doctors Without Borders' Access Campaign, said in a statement Wednesday that "we have learned the hard lessons of the past of having to take a country-by-country and product-by-product approach of removing intellectual property barriers impeding access to lifesaving treatments; it is not sufficient and doesn't provide no expeditious option for this global pandemic."

"At a time when more than three million lives have already been lost to Covid-19," da Fonseca added, "we urge countries to take all possible measures, including supporting this waiver, to be able to protect everyone, everywhere during this pandemic."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

Abortion Rights Defenders Applaud Judge's Block on Utah 'Trigger Ban'

"Today is a win, but it is only the first step in what will undoubtedly be a long and difficult fight," said one pro-choice advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·


Scores Feared Dead and Wounded as Russian Missiles Hit Ukraine Shopping Center

"People just burned alive," said Ukraine's interior minister, while the head of the Poltava region stated that "it is too early to talk about the final number of the killed."

Brett Wilkins ·


Biodiversity Risks Could Persist for Decades After Global Temperature Peak

One study co-author said the findings "should act as a wake-up call that delaying emissions cuts will mean a temperature overshoot that comes at an astronomical cost to nature and humans that unproven negative emission technologies cannot simply reverse."

Jessica Corbett ·


Amnesty Report Demands Biden Take Action to End Death Penalty

"The world is waiting for the USA to do what almost 100 countries have achieved during this past half-century—total abolition of the death penalty," said the group.

Julia Conley ·


Pointing to 'Recently Obtained Evidence,' Jan. 6 Panel Calls Surprise Tuesday Hearing

The announcement came less than a week after the House panel delayed new hearings until next month, citing a "deluge" of fresh evidence.

Common Dreams staff ·

Common Dreams Logo