International union leaders issue joint call for “fair and free access” to vaccines for the Global South
Current patent laws are stopping countries from producing affordable medicines, warn unions
No room for “vaccine nationalism”, says TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady, amid humanitarian crisis in India
The UK government is today (Tuesday) being urged to use its presidency of the G7 to help speed up the supply of vaccines to Covid-stricken countries.
In a joint letter to Trade Secretary Liz Truss, the heads of the union bodies the TUC, ITUC, ETUC and TUAC, along with other G7 unions, say urgent action is needed to help India and other countries in the Global South vaccinate their populations.
The letter warns:
“Global South countries have only been able to access a fraction of the number of vaccines that Global North countries have been able to.
“This is due to lack of supply and the high cost of purchasing patented vaccines.
“As a consequence the pandemic is having a catastrophic effect on the health and livelihoods of Global South societies, deepening global inequalities.”
The letter points out that current World Trade Organisation intellectual property rules are preventing Global South countries from locally producing low-cost versions of patented Covid vaccines.
The union leaders say the government must support the waiver to these rules being proposed by the governments of India and South Africa so that Global South countries are able to provide their populations with the vaccines they critically need.
The TUC says it is vital that the UK government uses its influence and leverage within the G7 and World Trade Organisation to get countries to support this waiver.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
"We all have a shared interest in getting vaccines rolled out across the globe and stopping the spread of Covid-19.
“Nobody is safe from this disease until all the world is safe.
“The UK government must use its presidency of the G7 to help end the humanitarian crisis in the Global South.
“That means working with other G7 nations to waive intellectual property rights so all nations can easily access and manufacture low cost supplies of the vaccine.
“Covid-19 does not respect borders or patents. The last thing we need is vaccine nationalism and protectionism.
“There is a huge danger of new strains of Covid developing if our leaders do not act quickly and decisively.”
-The full letter reads:
We are writing to you on behalf of global trade union centres to call for the UK government to use its presidency role at the G7 to ensure equitable and free access of Global South countries to Covid-19 vaccines.
We call on the UK government to support the waiver of World Trade Organisation (WTO) TRIPs rules being proposed by South Africa and India to allow Global South countries to produce affordable versions of patented Covid vaccines.
Equitable and free access to vaccines is vital to tackling the coronavirus pandemic and protecting us all, yet Global South countries have only been able to access a fraction of the number of vaccines that Global North countries have been able to. This is due to lack of supply and the high cost of purchasing patented vaccines. As a consequence the pandemic is having a catastrophic effect on the health and livelihoods of Global South societies, deepening global inequalities.
WTO TRIPs rules prevent Global South countries from locally producing low-cost versions of patented Covid vaccines. A waiver to these rules would enable countries to produce affordable versions of patented Covid vaccines so Global South countries are able to provide their populations with the vaccines they critically need, as well as enable countries to produce low-cost Covid tests, medical treatments, Personal Protective Equipment products and other vital public health tools. It is inequitable for pharmaceutical companies to claim ownership of Covid vaccines given that their development was funded overwhelmingly by public money. It is critical, therefore, that the UK government uses its influence at the WTO to support a waiver to TRIPs rules and encourages other G7 governments to do the same.
We are also concerned that while the UK government pledged at a G7 meeting in February to donate its surplus vaccines to Global South countries, it has not yet done so. We call on the UK government to work with other G7 countries to ensure they donate surplus vaccines as soon as possible to Global South countries to meet demand.
We look forward to hearing how you plan to take up these points at WTO and through the UK government's presidency of the G7.
Frances O’Grady, General Secretary, TUC (UK)
Sharon Burrow, General Secretary ITUC
Luca Visentini, General Secretary, ETUC
Pierre Habbard, General Secretary TUAC (trade union advisory committee to the ETUC)
Maurizio Landini, General Secretary, CGIL (Italy)
Luigi Sbarra, General Secretary CISL, (Italy)
Laurent Berger, General Secretary, CFDT (France)
François Hommeril, President, CFE CGC (France)
Hassan Youseff, President, CLC (Canada)
Rikio Kozu, President, Japanese Trade Union Confederation - JTUC-RENGO (Japan)
- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.
TUC press office
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