Rich world’s ‘near-monopoly’ on Covid vaccines

MARTINE PAUWELS –

Richer countries are failing a “rudimentary” test of global solidarity by hoarding Covid vaccines, Amnesty International said on Wednesday as it accused some countries of exploiting the pandemic to undermine human rights.
In its annual report, the campaigning rights organisation said the health crisis had exposed “broken” policies and that cooperation was the only way forward.
“The pandemic has cast a harsh light on the world’s inability to cooperate effectively and equitably,” said Agnes Callamard, who was appointed Amnesty’s secretary-general last month.
“The richest countries have effected a near-monopoly of the world’s supply of vaccines, leaving countries with the fewest resources to face the worst health and human rights outcomes.”
Amnesty strongly criticised the decision by former US President Donald Trump to withdraw Washington from the World Health Organization (WHO) in the midst of the pandemic — a step now reversed by Trump’s successor Joe Biden. Callamard called for an immediate acceleration of the global vaccine rollout, calling the inoculation campaign “a most fundamental, even rudimentary, test of the world’s capacity for cooperation”.
Since the coronavirus emerged in China in late 2019, the pandemic has claimed more than 2.8 million lives globally and infected at least 130 million people. Despite regular calls for global solidarity from international organisations, figures show widening inequality in access to vaccines.
According to an AFP count, more than half the 680 million-plus doses administered worldwide have been in high-income countries, such as the United States, Britain and Israel, while the poorest have received only 0.1 per cent of the doses. At the end of March, the WHO warned of an increasingly unbalanced distribution of vaccines.
Amnesty International has supported initiatives such as the WHO’s vaccine exchange platform C-TAP to share know-how, intellectual property and data.
The under-used initiative could be used to build production capacity and additional vaccine production sites, particularly in Africa, Asia and Latin America, according to the WHO.
Amnesty dismissed as “paltry half-measures” decisions like those of the G20 group of nations to suspend debt repayments for 77 nations.
— AFP