Global Vaccine Inequality

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2022 National Delegate Conference
22 February 2022

Conference expresses its deep concern at the ongoing inequity in access to Covid-19 vaccines globally. In addition to the strong moral imperative, failure to ensure high vaccine coverage in all countries puts everyone at risk from new, potentially vaccine resistant variants of the virus.

Conference notes that sixty nine of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable low income and middle-income countries missed the World Health Organisation’s end of year target for vaccinating 40 percent of their populations.

Conference condemns the fact that the world’s richest countries continue to accumulate vaccine doses while the world’s poorest struggle with woefully inadequate supplies. It is estimated that by the end of 2021, there were 600 million surplus vaccine doses across G7 countries alone. At the same time, only one in eleven people in low income countries have received a single dose.

Conference calls on the UK to show true leadership by raising its ambition and commitment to expedite vaccines reaching those most in need. Actions to support this should include increasing the UK’s overall commitment to COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX). To help ensure transparency, we urge the government to publish a schedule for reallocation of doses to support COVAX, in line with the Joint Statement on Dose Donations of COVID-19 Vaccines to African Countries.

Conference further calls on the UK government to join the US and other World Trade Organisation (WTO) members in supporting a Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver at the WTO during this global crisis. While the waiver is essential to simplify and accelerate production of vaccines in and for the Global South, it must also be accompanied by support for knowledge and technology transfer to rapidly increase manufacturing capacity.

Conference further notes that the rapid development and roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine was only possible due to high levels of government expenditure, research by public universities and public subsidies to pharmaceutical companies despite the fact that the pharmaceutical industry is one of the most profitable in the world making billions in profits from charging high prices and controlling who gets access to their products. Meanwhile, people suffer and die from treatable conditions because they cannot afford extortionate prices.

Conference believes that the pandemic has exposed how this profit driven system is completely inadequate to ensure Covid-19 vaccines and treatments reach everyone who needs them, that it is economically and socially unsustainable and that the pharmaceutical industry is in need of urgent reform.

Conference welcomes the leadership played by UNISON in raising this issue in the UK and its willingness to work collaboratively with other organisations such as Global Justice Now, the Trade Justice Movement and others from outside the trade union movement. Conference also congratulates Public Services International and the European federation of Public Service Unions for their strong campaigning role within the global and European trade union movements.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to:

1)Continue to campaign for the UK to support a waiver of the WTO TRIPS agreement and for other measures to facilitate true global access to Covid-19 vaccines and other treatments;

2)Support calls for a reform of the pharmaceutical industry based on the principles of access to affordable pharmaceutical products for all based on need rather than the ability to pay;

3)To campaign for such reform within the TUC, Scottish TUC, Irish Congress of Trade Unions and European and global trade union movements as well as the Labour Party alongside non-governmental organisations who share our values and commitment to this campaign.