Blog / 10 December 2021

Vaccine apartheid is a violation of human rights

Pharmaceuticals hold on to their patents and (our) governments do not remove the barriers to free production that were raised under international trade agreements years ago.

Today is International Human Rights Day. Human rights are being violated more openly and blatantly all around the world, and the Corona epidemic has only made the situation worse. While, here in Europe, we try to control the rapidly spreading Omicron variant with a wide range of measures, the virus continues to proliferate and mutate in all its forms unchecked in countries where sufficient vaccines are still not available. The rich West has ample opportunity to do something about this. By making the formulas for the vaccines accessible, they can potentially be used in every country. But pharmaceutical companies hold tight to their patents and our governments refuse to lift the restrictions on free production that have been incorporated in international trade agreements for many years. And that is a violation of human rights worldwide.

Most Corona vaccines have been developed using large sums of public money. It's completely crazy: we are in the middle of a pandemic and we could easily make enough vaccines for everyone in the world who wanted one. And yet, public health is being jeopardised by private interests. Governments should be taking a much firmer stand.

Of course, releasing the patents on vaccines is not the whole answer. Many other factors, including logistical and geographical obstacles, hamper their fair distribution, within countries too. But we can easily take this first important step to give the global vaccination campaign a real boost.

The biggest paradox of all is that most of the vaccines are produced in countries where local populations are not receiving them. The world's largest vaccine manufacturer is located in India, but most of their products are for export. Only 15% of the Indian population has been vaccinated. The same applies to South Africa. These countries have the knowledge, the skills, the technology and even the manpower, but not the right to produce a vaccine for their own people. Because nothing comes for free. Every day, people around the world are protesting against this vaccine apartheid, including IGJ, our partners in Jakarta.

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