G20 urged to “face up” to global Covid-19 challenges, as rich countries still monopolise vaccine supply

covid vaccine

Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia: Wednesday 16/11 : Rich countries have delivered seven times more doses of COVID-19 vaccine per head than low-income countries[1], civil society groups have warned, as the G20 summit continues its session in Bali. The groups have called on the G20 governments to address the intellectual property barriers that have frustrated the sharing of vaccine and treatment technology.

The warning was issued after a vaccine access conference from the C20 group of civil society organization, the official civil society counterpart to the G20. C20 members including Indonesia for Global Justice, Indonesia AIDS Coalition, and the People’s Vaccine Alliance Asia met to discuss the G20’s flailing commitment to global vaccine and treatment equality.

The G20 has not yet committed to suspending intellectual property rights for the needs of COVID-19, despite many G20 governments supporting a temporary waiver of the Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) agreement – known as the TRIPS waiver – at the World Trade Organization.

“G20 Governments need to face up to the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic. Intellectual property rules have been a major barrier to the sharing of technology required for fast production of the medical products needed to address pandemics. We are still waiting to hear a clear plan on how the G20 will address these barriers so that now and for future pandemics, life-saving medical tools are available to everyone, everywhere and at times when these are needed most ,” Lanz Espacio, People’s Vaccine Alliance – Asia’s Regional Campaign Coordinator, said.

At last year’s G20 in Rome, the government of Indonesia publicly supported the TRIPS waiver. But Indonesia has ignored the proposal in its time as G20 President, with no discussion of intellectual property rules at the G20 Health Working Group.

The Coordinator of the Global Civil-20 Health and Vaccine Access Working Group, Agung Prakoso, said: “The Indonesian government has fallen silent on the crucial issue of intellectual property. This is a major step backward in global vaccine equality. Indonesia once supported initiatives to expand vaccine, diagnostic and therapeutic manufacturing. The world needs a G20 President that will fight to remove the barriers that prevent developing countries from manufacturing vaccines and treatments”.

Rich countries and pharmaceutical companies want access to genomics and pathogen samples from people in low and middle-income countries to help develop drugs to combat future pandemics. But the G20 has not yet outlined how developing country populations will have access to the benefits of any research, a requirement under the Nagoya Protocol.

IGJ Senior Researcher, Lutfiyah Hanim also revealed issues related to the commitment to sharing genomics. “If people in developing countries are to share our pathogens or genomics, then rich countries must reciprocate by sharing any medical technologies developed as a result. This is an issue of sovereignty and is crucial to avoid any misuse by pharmaceutical companies”.

The Peoples Vaccine Alliance continues to call on the G20 leaders to consider the economic impact of the longer duration of the pandemic because of the inequality of vaccine access that still exists.

About the author: A journalist hailing from the Eastern Indian state of Odisha, Pradeep Baisakh has extensively written on grassroots issues for various newspapers and journals in India and abroad. He has bagged a national award from National Foundation for India (NFI) for development journalism. Having nearly sixteen years of experience in the social sector, Baisakh currently works as the Asia Coordinator of Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), a global civil society campaign working on issues of inequality and poverty. He has done a short research project at the University of California, Irvine.

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