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People's Vaccine

Protesters picket outside Johnson & Johnson offices in Cape Town, South Africa during the Global Day Of Action For A People's Vaccine on March 11, 2021. (Photo: Brenton Geach/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

Summit Participants Embrace 'Vaccine Internationalism' to End Pandemic

"Our goal is simple: to end the pandemic as quickly as possible by securing Covid-19 vaccines for all," says the coordinator of Progressive International's four-day virtual summit.

Brett Wilkins

Decrying "medical apartheid" and the "failure" of G7 nations "to take on the Big Pharma monopoly rules that are preventing global mass vaccination," Progressive International on Friday kicked off a four-day virtual summit to promote "vaccine internationalism."

"Vaccine internationalism is how we end the pandemic."
—Progressive International

Asserting that "vaccine internationalism is how we end the pandemic," Progressive International (PI) noted that since the February virtual meeting of G7 finance ministers, "one million more people have died from Covid-19," and that the coronavirus "could mutate further and become resistant to existing vaccines."

"Despite this lethal urgency, a plan and commitment to vaccinate the world failed to materialize" during the recently concluded G7 leaders' summit in Cornwall, England, PI said.

"Even the heralded pledge to donate a billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine—a fraction of the 11 billion doses the world needs, and spread over a year and a half—dropped to 870 million by the time the meetings concluded, out of which only 613 million doses are truly new," it added.

Summit coordinator and Progressive International cabinet member Varsha Gandikota-Nellutla warned Friday that "as long as the virus spreads, it can mutate and move. Ending the pandemic is not a question of charity. It is a question of survival. The longer we wait, the more we are at risk: billions of lives, North and South, vaccinated and unvaccinated."

"Ending the pandemic is not a question of charity. It is a question of survival."
—Varsha Gandikota-Nellutla, PI

"The end of this pandemic is now being artificially delayed," Gandikota-Nellutla asserted. "In this moment, every laboratory, every factory, every scientist, and every healthcare worker must be empowered to produce and deliver more vaccines for everyone, everywhere."

"That is why we are convening ministers, parliamentarians, government officials, healthcare workers, and vaccine manufacturers in an emergency Summit for Vaccine Internationalism—with the Global South leading the way," she added.

"Our goal is simple: to end the pandemic as quickly as possible by securing Covid-19 vaccines for all," said Gandikota-Nellutla.

Summit speaker Ana Barreto, program director of AfroResistance, a Black and Latinx women-led advocacy group, said Friday that "vaccine internationalism will save the lives of the most vulnerable, most discriminated, most racialized people in our different societies."

"When we think about vaccine access globally and especially in Latin America, we can see a completely racially disproportion on the numbers, on access, as well as when we compare people that are carrying the virus, as well as people that are dying," said Barreto.

However, Bolivian Foreign Minister Rogelio Mayta, Indian lawmaker K. K. Shailaja, and Kisimu County, Kenya Gov. Peter Anyang' Nyong'o said in a joint statement that "we have the power to end this pandemic."

"We are witnessing the the first steps in the creation of a new international health order based in solidarity, not charity."
—David Adler, PI

"We have the technology, materials, and productive capacity to vaccinate the world against Covid-19 this year. We can save millions of lives, protect billions of livelihoods, and reclaim trillions of dollars worth of economic activity along the way," they said.

During her speech on Friday, Shailaja—who represents the southern Indian state of Kerala—said that "we should waive all the laws that prevent the easy movement of vaccines throughout the world."

Currently, the United States and France are the only two G7 nations to endorse a Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver at the World Trade Organization, a policy first proposed by India and South Africa.

Other summit participants include Dr. Ileana Morales, Cuba's director of National Science and Public Health; Jeremy Corbyn, a British parliamentarian 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.

"We are witnessing the the first steps in the creation of a new international health order based in solidarity, not charity," said Progressive International general coordinator David Adler.

"The Progressive International exists to unite, mobilize, and organize progressive forces—and that is exactly what we are doing with this summit," he added. "We are using our convening capacity to create a platform for collective action that can turn the dial towards justice."

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