Vaccine sharing programme must be top of G7 agenda

Rights waiver will make the world safer

Leaders of the G7 nations must use this week’s summit to agree a temporary waiver of the intellectual property (IP) rights for the coronavirus vaccine ​to allow more of the world’s population to be vaccinated and quickly, says UNISON today (Thursday).  

The G7 nations, whose members include the UK, Canada, Germany and the US, have so far failed to reach agreement on a proposal made last year by India and South Africa to the World Trade Organisation.

This ​proposal sought to bypass the monopoly held by ​the pharmaceutical giants over the vaccine market, by temporarily waiving their IP rights​.

The move would enable any country to reproduce and supply the vaccines at cost price to their ​citizens, speeding up production time and saving countless lives, says UNISON.  

The general secretaries of UNISON and its international equivalent Public Services International have written to the G7 leaders, urging them to immediately back the waiver.

All the G7 countries have managed to secure enough ​vaccine supplies to ​jab their populations several times over, and the US has already started protecting lower-risk groups, such as children.

Meanwhile ​vaccination rates in many countries, ​including Thailand, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa and Iran are incredibly low, says UNISON.

The union is urging ​G7 summit leaders not to be complacent with people’s lives, and ​act together to ensure profit doesn’t take priority over world health during this global emergency.  

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The G7 leaders must take decisive action to bring the virus under control. People in low-income countries don’t have time to deliberate – every moment wasted risks thousands of lives.

“Donations of vaccine doses are a welcome step but only go so far. The 500 million jabs pledged by the US would only vaccinate the population of Nigeria. Waiving the production rights completely would have a more far-reaching impact.  

“The NHS has done an outstanding job with the vaccine rollout, but with new strains emerging regularly until everyone on the planet is vaccinated, no one is safe. The world is watching the summit, and there isn’t a moment to lose.”

Public Services International general secretary Rosa Pavanelli said: “Health workers across the world are demanding that the G7 finally approve this waiver on vaccine patents so they can make their communities safe as soon as possible.

“We know the COVAX programme will not be sufficient to immunise the global population. We must go to the root of the problem and that means making the vaccine public.”

Notes to editors:
– The UNISON and PSI joint letter can be viewed here 
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, private and community sectors.

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