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UN committee asks rich countries to give up COVID 19 vaccine business

19 September, 2023 | Ricardo Changala

The Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) of the United Nations Organization asked rich countries to give up the business of vaccines against the COVID 19 virus, which it currently considers a serious public health problem that generates devastating negative effects that are disproportionately falling on people and groups vulnerable to racial discrimination.

The Decision No. 1/23, approved at its working session at the end of August 2023 as an urgent procedure, has three essential contents:

  1. Urges States parties to prioritize human rights concerns and incorporate strict guarantees including a mechanism that commits Governments to suspend intellectual property rights in a health crisis, as mentioned in the draft agreement on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response currently being negotiated at the Summit of the World Health Organization.
  2. It calls on the States parties of the Global North to provide resources so that the poorest States can meet basic medical capacities and that vaccines, relevant medicines and other necessary equipment and supplies are available. to all in a non-discriminatory manner.
  3. Requests Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America to respond to this Decision by providing information on measures taken to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines or other measures taken to address the high rates of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality worldwide among individuals and groups most exposed to racial discrimination.

The decision is extraordinary, due to its scope and for taking up a topic discussed at the time but that had been left off the debate agenda in recent times: the disastrous role played by large companies in the framework of the pandemic that deprived a good part of humanity of having vaccines and other essential health supplies in a timely manner.

According to the latest data from the World Health Organization, only 32% of the world’s population has received at least one booster or additional dose of the vaccine. However, in developing countries such as Gabon, Papua New Guinea, Burundi and Madagascar, the proportion is less than 1%.

According to the UN, COVID-19 remains a serious public health problem with devastating negative effects that are disproportionately falling on people and groups vulnerable to racial discrimination, in particular people of African or Asian descent, ethnic minorities, Roma communities and indigenous peoples.

The current problems of inequality can be significantly mitigated by sharing access to intellectual property rights for patents on vaccines, treatments, and related life-preserving technologies, which are currently reserved to a few countries of the Global North, the Committee said.

It will be necessary to monitor the impact of this decision that has been so little disseminated in the media and that, in addition, could have a future impact not only in relation to COVID 19 but also with other diseases and medicines for its prevention and treatment.