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Covid-19 vaccine readied

Vaccination continues as people receive doses of coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccines at Izmir Katip Celebi University's Ataturk Training and Research Hospital in Izmir, Turkey on June 17, 2021. (Photo: Mahmut Serdar Alakus/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Progressive International Convenes Global Summit to Achieve Vaccines for All

The virtual gathering aims to foster "vaccine internationalism" and cooperation to put human lives over corporate greed.

Andrea Germanos

To challenge Covid-19 "vaccine apartheid" and an "artificially delayed" end of the global pandemic, Progressive International is convening a global summit this week to help make doses available to everyone on the planet.

"We have the capacity to vaccinate the world," Progressive International asserts in promotional materials for the Summit for Vaccine Internationalism, which kicks off Friday. "But a coalition of pharmaceutical corporations, billionaire philanthropists, and Global North governments stands in the way."

"Our goal is simple," the group says, "to produce, distribute, and deliver Covid-19 vaccines for all."

The four-day virtual event will bring together healthcare workers, vaccine manufacturers, and government officials, including ministers from the Global South, to ensure solidarity is "more than a slogan" and forge a plan to share technology, ramp up manufacturing capacity, and push for vaccine intellectual property waivers. 

"We cannot seriously expect the G7 leaders to challenge a global health system that they constructed. Nor can we wait around for fresh promises of charity."

Participants include Dr. Ileana Morales, Cuba's director of National Science and Public Health; Jeremy Corbyn, a British MP and former Labour Party leader; Mustaqeem de Gama, South Africa's representative to the World Trade Organization; Zain Rizvi, U.S. law and policy researcher in Public Citizen's Access to Medicines Program; and economist Yanis Varoufakis, a member of Greece's Parliament and co-founder of Progressive International.

The backdrop of the summit is a stark divide in global Covid-19 vaccinations.

"Countries and regions with the highest incomes are getting vaccinated more than 30 times faster than those with the lowest," according to Bloomberg's tracker. While more than 2.45 million doses have been administered, some countries have not yet given even a single shot. Progressive International says that at the current rate, the entire world would not be vaccinated for another 57 years.

G7 nations addressed the issue last week but pledged just 613 million new doses—far less than the 1 billion coronavirus vaccine that was originally promised, though even that amount was panned by global health advocates as insufficient.

According to summit coordinators Varsha Gandikota-Nellutla and Ana Caistor Arendar, the G7's commitment was unsurprising. They wrote Thursday:

We cannot seriously expect the G7 leaders to challenge a global health system that they constructed. Nor can we wait around for fresh promises of charity. As the G7 pose for photographs on the beach, new variants of concern continue to accelerate the virus's assault: the Alpha variant in the UK, Beta in South Africa, Gamma in Brazil, and now, Delta in India. Every minute that global cooperation is delayed is another neighborhood of lives at risk.

As of today, the G7 countries have purchased over a third of the world's vaccine supply, despite making up only 13% of the global population. Africa, meanwhile, with its 1.34 billion people, has vaccinated a meager 1.8% of its population. The result: At the current rate, low-income countries will be left waiting 57 years for everyone to be fully vaccinated.

What's more, Gandikota-Nellutla and Arendar added, many of the rich nations "have done nothing to waive patent monopolies on vaccines. None of them have done anything to force a transfer of vaccine technology to the world." The pair points to research from Public Citizen showing that it would be possible for manufacturing facilities to produce enough coronavirus vaccines for the world in one year.

That achievement, however, is being blocked by powerful entities.

"This is not a coincidence," wrote summit participants K K. Shailaja, a member of Kerala, India's Legislative Assembly and former Health Minister; Anyang’ Nyong’o, governor of Kisumu County in Kenya; and Rogelio Mayta, Bolivia's foreign minister.

In an op-ed published Thursday at the Guardian, the trio, who hail from countries "now moving into the pandemic's deadliest phase," explained:

The system of pharmaceutical patents at the World Trade Organization was designed to prioritize corporate profit over human life. Even in the midst of a deadly pandemic, a coalition of pharmaceutical companies and global north governments refuses to re-order these priorities—blocking patent waivers, refusing to share vaccine technologies, and underfunding multilateral responses.

That is why government ministers and health officials from around the world are convening the Summit for Vaccine Internationalism. Hosted by the Progressive International, the Summit's aim is simple: to develop a common plan to produce and distribute vaccines for all—with concrete commitments to pool technology, invoke patent waivers, and invest in rapid production.

Referring to current situation of vaccine inequality, Gandikota-Nellutla and Arender say that "this cannot go on."

"With this summit, the Progressive International is sounding the alarm: our lives and liberty are in danger, and the sovereignty of the South is at stake. These progressive forces are coming together to set the stage for a new kind of politics —where solidarity is more than a slogan," they wrote.

"We are convening a planetary alliance for #VaccineInternationalism," the pair continued. "Join us."

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