[Opinion column written by Glenn Fubler]
As the global death toll due to the pandemic surpasses 2.5 million, stringent intellectual property rights are apparently severely limiting access for Covid vaccines to most people around the globe.
India and South Africa are championing a campaign of vital global importance; addressing the relevant governing body in this regard, the World Trade Organization [WTO]. Their goal – supported by over 100 countries – is to facilitate accessibility for the Covid vaccines for all of the seven billion who share the planet.
This urgent matter is being taken to the WTO in early March, seeking to temporarily set aside intellectual property restrictions, which – if left unaltered – would lead to what some describe as ‘vaccine apartheid.’
The current state-of-play has resulted in 20 or so well-off countries having millions of citizens already vaccinated and 130 countries – according to the United Nations – without any inoculations to date at all.
Dr Craig Spencer, director of Global Health in Emergency Medicine at Columbia University, is one of a number of American health and social justice advocates who are supporting this Indian/South African initiative, pressuring the Biden administration to support a temporary transformation of the paradigm around life-sustaining medical supplies.
He notes that the present circumstances have meant richer nations having more than adequate supplies – some hoarding amounts that could vaccinate their populations multiple times – leaving 85% of the global population high and dry.
The timely delivery of vaccines around the globe is vitally key – the longer it takes for vaccinations on a global scale, the more variants will develop. Of course, the more mutant coronaviruses, the greater adverse impact on the whole human family, since we’re all in the same boat.
Jan Schakowsky, Congressmember for Illinois, has been championing the waiver from WTO in the U.S. House of Representative, pointing out that “we know that these intellectual property rights have put profits before people, all over the world.” The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has also recently expressed support for the WTO waiver.
Mustaqueen De Gemma, a member of the South African’s WTO Delegation, points out that “the proposal is simply to ensure that everyone has access to the [Covid] vaccines…to ensure that all of us are safe in the shortest possible time.”
Of course, in Bermuda, we have been blessed with timely and adequate access to the vaccine. The implications of that reality, for our community, will be addressed in a virtual panel hosted on Bernews on Thursday, May 4th from 6.30 to 7.30 pm.
Panel members include Dr Malcolm Brock, Dr Renee Simons, and Dr Wilbert Warner – two medical doctors and one counsellor – and there will be facility for viewers to have some specific questions answered.
– Glenn Fubler