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People's vaccine

An advocate of a "People's Vaccine" protests outside an AstraZeneca site in Macclesfield, United Kingdom on May 11, 2021. (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Two Years Into Pandemic, Die-Ins Will Demand End to Big Pharma's Grip on Vaccine Patents

Organizers are calling for waiving intellectual property rules, sharing vaccine recipes, and funding regional hubs to make more doses.

Jessica Corbett

Justice campaigners across the globe plan to mark the two-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring the coronavirus crisis a pandemic on Friday with die-ins and rallies to protest the intellectual property policies fueling what critics call "vaccine apartheid."

"Pharma's monopoly grip on Covid vaccines... puts us at risk for the next deadly variant."

While "billions of people worldwide still don't have access to Covid vaccines and treatments," says the protest organizers' website, "pharmaceutical companies are recording profits of over $1 million per hour and world leaders refuse to stand up to them."

In several wealthy nations, 75% or more of the population has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and many people even have access to boosters, according to Our World in Data. Meanwhile, less than 14% of those in low-income countries have had one shot.

Public health advocates and experts are frustrated with rich nations for hoarding doses and failing to reach a deal at the World Trade Organization to waive IP rights for Covid-19 vaccines, treatments, and tests. Big Pharma and some wealthy countries oppose such a waiver.

"The die-ins and rallies, taking place in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia, call on world leaders, including those in the U.S. and the E.U., to immediately waive intellectual property rules standing in the way of increased vaccine and treatment production; mandate the sharing of vaccine-making recipes; and help fund the creation of regional vaccine-making hubs," organizers of the #EndCOVIDMonopolies actions said in a statement.

Groups behind Friday's protests include ActionAid, Amnesty International, Frontline AIDS, Global Justice Now, Justice Is Global, Oxfam, People's Vaccine Alliance, Trade Justice Education Fund, and Social Security Works.

During a recent webinar organized by People's Vaccine Alliance Asia, Oxfam's regional policy and campaigns coordinator, Sunil Acharya, said that "countries such as Afghanistan lag far behind others in vaccination rates."

"Within countries," he noted, "remote regions have much lower vaccination rates and the most vulnerable among populations, most of whom lack identification documents are being left behind."

Amani Mustafa of ActionAid Palestine pointed out at the same event that "while 99.4% of the population in Israel is fully vaccinated, in Palestine, only 49% of the population is fully vaccinated."

"Israel presents itself as among the most successful in the world in terms of vaccination rates," Mustafa added of the occupying government. "However, many Palestinians in West Bank are still waiting to receive vaccination, despite Israel's obligation to provide vaccines under the Geneva Convention."

Oxfam last week released a report highlighting that on a global scale, "while effective vaccines provide hope, their rollout has tipped, from a natural desire to protect citizens, into nationalism, greed, and self-interest."

With the death toll from Covid-19 now above six million, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday reminded the world that the pandemic "will not be over anywhere until it's over everywhere."

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