Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are less than 72 hours left in this Mid-Year Campaign and our independent journalism needs your help today.
If you value our work, please support Common Dreams. This is our hour of need.

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.

Vaccine equity campaigners carry a mock coffin in London.

People carry mock coffins in front of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office in London on October 12, 2021. (Photo: Hasan Esen/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

World Leaders Must Commit to End Covid-19 Patents: Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus

Decrying the "brutally unequal global rollout of Covid-19 vaccines," Yunus wrote that "there is still time for world leaders to say never again."

Andrea Germanos

Social entrepreneur and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus on Saturday called for a comprehensive waiver of intellectual property rules for Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, declaring that "freeing" the technology "from profit and patent is the key" to a global health system that puts human lives above corporate profit.

In an op-ed published Saturday in Stat news, Yunus—who's previously joined with other Nobel laureates in pushing for an end to intellectual property barriers—pointed to the global inequality in access to vaccines.

"The brutally unequal global rollout of Covid-19 vaccines and treatments is a consequence of an ever-increasing concentration of wealth and focus on profit maximization."

He referenced Oxfam's estimate that it could take an additional two and a half years for the poorest countries to meet the World Health Organization's target of vaccinating 70% of the world's population.

"Denied vaccines for more than a year," lower-income countries are now seeing the arrival of doses, he wrote, yet those countries will not be the ones deciding on which company's products arrive nor on what timeline, thus complicating vaccination campaigns. A similar phenomenon, he added, is now happening with antiviral pills, which are being hoarded by wealthy nations.

"Wealth is power," wrote Yunus. "And the brutally unequal global rollout of Covid-19 vaccines and treatments is a consequence of an ever-increasing concentration of wealth and focus on profit maximization."

The pharmaceutical industry, he asserted, is on a quest for "ever-greater profits" and thus supplies vaccines to the highest bidder.

Yunus went on to accuse "the wealthy nations, the G10, the continuous beneficiaries of the wealth-concentrating economic machine" of gaining from the current framework at the expense of the rest of the world. But these same wealthy nations, he said, "have the resources to narrow the great vaccine gap, if they want to."

A key step in ensuring equitable access to vaccines, according to Yunus, is the establishment of pharmaceutical companies focused on solving social problems rather than making profits, ones that could distribute the doses at cost. And that means "removing barriers like intellectual property rules."

That needs to happen this month, he said, with world leaders taking a step they've so far refused to do in the pandemic—backing a comprehensive waiver of parts of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement. He pointed out that the E.U. and U.K. have thus far blocked such an effort. He also called out the U.S. for backing a waiver solely on vaccines.

"There is still time for world leaders to say never again," he wrote, "and to commit to a fairer system of global health that prioritizes human life over the profits of a handful of pharmaceutical companies."


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

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Markey, Bowman Join Climate Coalition in Urging SCOTUS Expansion

"We cannot sit idly by," said Markey, "as extremists on the Supreme Court eviscerate the authorities that the government has had for decades to combat climate change and reduce pollution."

Brett Wilkins ·


Ocasio-Cortez Says US 'Witnessing a Judicial Coup in Process'

"It is our duty to check the Court's gross overreach of power in violating people's inalienable rights and seizing for itself the powers of Congress and the president."

Brett Wilkins ·


Critics Say Biden Drilling Bonanza 'Won't Lower Gas Prices' But 'Will Worsen Climate Crisis'

"President Biden's massive public lands giveaway in the face of utter climate catastrophe is just the latest sign that his climate commitments are mere rhetoric," said one campaigner.

Kenny Stancil ·


Grave Warnings as Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case That Threatens 'Future of Voting Rights'

"Buckle up," implores one prominent legal scholar. "An extreme decision here could fundamentally alter the balance of power in setting election rules in the states and provide a path for great threats to elections."

Brett Wilkins ·


Biden Urged to Take Emergency Action After 'Disastrous' Climate Ruling by Supreme Court

"The catastrophic impact of this decision cannot be understated," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, but "we cannot accept defeat."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo