Decolonize Corona Solidarity

A statement and meme made with Black Earth.

Vaccine Nationalism
At present, rich countries with just 16 percent of the world’s population have bought up 60 percent of the world’s vaccine supply.

In Africa, vaccination is off to a slow start. Just 6m doses have been administered in sub-Saharan Africa, fewer than in New Jersey. Just 1% of African adults have received a first jab, versus a global average of 13%. Scant supply is the biggest problem, but not the only one. (Economist Newsletter, 24 April 2021)

We demand equitable distribution of COVID vaccines

Scales of production
The most assured way to curb the corona virus is to vaccinate everybody, however the scale of production of vaccines required to meet the scale of the pandemic is hampered by:

intellectual property: Last year at the WTO a proposal put forth by South Africa and India to suspend intellectual property on COVID vaccines given the exceptional circumstances, was blocked by EU, UK, US, Canada, Australia, Brazil (and despite the majority of the member states supporting this.) (Prabhala et al 2020)

 new or patented technologies: Technologies required to produce mRNA vaccines like those produced by Pfizer and Moderna, restricts the pool of possible vaccine manufacturers (Gordon 2021). The economic argument that Big Pharma invest lots of money to develop IP must be weighed against the amount of public funds given to these companies to assess the ‘just’ and equitable access to these scientific developments.

 cost: ‘AstraZeneca, which has pledged it won’t make a profit on the vaccine during the pandemic, has reached agreements with governments and international health organizations that put its cost at about $2.50 a dose. Pfizer’s vaccine costs (USD) about $20, while Moderna’s is $15 to $25, based on agreements the companies have struck to supply their vaccines to the U.S. government.’ (Kirka 2020)

supply chain vulnerabilities, limitations and trade agreements that restrict the distribution of vaccines (Murray & Griffin 2020)

We urge for suspension of patents and support the ‘open sourcing’ of COVID vaccine production so that more countries and facilities can manufacture vaccines to meet the needs of their people.

Vaccine Apartheid
According to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (2021), director-general of the World Health Organization:

At present, rich countries with just 16 percent of the world’s population have bought up 60 percent of the world’s vaccine supply. Many of these countries aim to vaccinate 70 percent of their adult population by midyear in pursuit of herd immunity. But COVAX—the multilateral mechanism created by the World Health Organization together with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the vaccine alliance, to ensure that vaccines reach all people everywhere—is struggling to purchase enough doses to cover just 20 percent of the population of lower-income countries by the end of 2021.

The hoarding of vaccines and prioritising the establishment of herd immunity in the richer countries while failing to vaccinate people of the ‘poorer nations’ produces a kind of ‘vaccine apartheid’. This inequity is intensified given that the majority of vaccine trials occurred in the less affluent states (Lerner 2020). This inequitable distribution of vaccines will have significant economic costs alongside the cost of human lives, as the richer nations recover faster than the rest. As the world shifts into a Corona-led recession, we fear this will lead to greater inequality and perilous labour conditions.

This Global Pandemic makes clear that free and accessible health care must be a universal right.

Racial Calculus
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently warned that the second year of the pandemic second year would be ‘far more deadly’ than the first, urging the richer nations to donate to the Covax global vaccine-sharing scheme. While in Germany we are signing up to waiting lists and getting our shots, we should bear in mind that vaccines are not distributed evenly let alone strategically to meet the scale of the pandemic.

The EU with its economic power and manufacturing capacity has purchased the lion’s share of COVID vaccines (1 500 million doses). The US, which has the highest culminative COVID deaths, follows (210 million doses), with Canada having purchasing the highest number per capita (381 million), with enough jabs to vaccinate its population several times over. India also purchased a significant percentage of vaccines (380 million), but that would cover less that 30% of its population.

Furthermore, vaccine procrument is complicated by delivery times, with manufacturing states and blocs such as the EU and the US able to make direct deals with manufacturers to secure their supplies. Notably, India is also a significant vaccine manufacturer, with the Serum Institute of India, yet the country has not been able to keep up with its steep infection rates. (See the Launch and Scale Speedometer initiative for current information)

With the death toll in India climbing towards 300 000 (266 207 on 15 May) and over 1.5 million in the Americas (1 578 218) and surges in infections in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Egypt, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus offered that the second year of the pandemic was on track to be ‘far more deadly’ than the first. We understand that these extraordinary deaths were part of the calculations of the EU, UK, US, Canada, Australia and Brazil when they blocked proposals by South Africa and India to suspend intellectual property on COVID vaccines. While the newly elected Biden government in the US recently endorsed a suspension of intellectual property on COVID vaccines to meet the demands of the pandemic (Velásquez 2021), Angela Merkel’s German government indicated that it does not support such measures (Borger & Wintour 2021).

To again cite Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus:
‘The pandemic will not be over anywhere until it is over everywhere.’

We demand vaccine equity not vaccine apartheid!

Borger, Julian and Wintour, Patrick, 2021. ‘US-Germany rift as Berlin opposes plan to ditch Covid vaccine patents’, The Guardian, 6 May.

Gavi, 2021. The Covax Facility: Interim Distribution Forecast, 3 February. [PDF]

Ghebreyesus, Tedros Adhanom, 2021. ‘Vaccine Nationalism Harms Everyone and Protects No One’, Foreign Policy, 4 February.

Gordon, Elena, 2021. ‘How India’s Serum Institute became a COVID-19 vaccine powerhouse’ The World, 4 February.

Kaila, Ilari & Mäkinen, Joona-Hermanni, 2021. ‘Finland Had a Patent-Free COVID-19 Vaccine Nine Months Ago — But Still Went With Big Pharma’, Jacobin, 28 February.

Kirka, Danica, 2020. ‘3rd major COVID-19 vaccine shown to be effective and cheaper’, AP News, 23 November.

Lerner, Sharon, 2020. ‘World Faces Covid-19 “Vaccine Apartheid”’, The Intercept, 31 December.

Meredith, Sam, 2021. ‘‘Sun, sea, sand and Soberana 02’: Cuba open to inoculating tourists with homegrown Covid vaccine’, CNBC, 23 February.

Mullard, Asher, 2020. ‘How COVID vaccines are being divvied up around the worldCanada leads the pack in terms of doses secured per capita.’, Nature, 20 November.

Murray, Brendan & Griffin, 2020. ‘The World’s Supply Chain Isn’t Ready for a Covid-19 Vaccine’, Bloomberg, 25 July.

Prabhala, Achal, Jayadev, Arjun & Baker, Dean, 2020. ‘Want vaccines fast? Suspend intellectual property rights’, The Straits Times, 9 December.

Velásquez, Germán, 2021. ‘What’s wrong with Biden’s promise to waive vaccine patents’, Politico, 6 May.

Williams, Dan & Lubell, Mayaan, 2021. ‘More than half Israelis receive both COVID-19 vaccine doses’, Reuters, 25 March.