More than 170 former world leaders and Nobel laureates are calling on United States President Joe Biden to make Covid-19 vaccines more readily available by waiving US intellectual property rules.
In an open letter shared by Oxfam on Wednesday, the signatories also urged Biden to support a proposal spearheaded by South Africa and India demanding the World Trade Organization (WTO) temporarily waive Covid-19 vaccine patents.
The signatories include former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, ex-French President Francois Hollande and Muhammad Yunus, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize among many more.
According to Al Jazeera, the measure would allow vaccine manufacturing to ramp up globally, the letter reads, as public health experts have raised concerns that low-income countries are left behind without access to critical coronavirus jabs.
“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment. We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens. Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus,” the readers wrote in a letter, seen by ANI.
The leaders also expressed encouragement on the fact that the Biden administration is considering a temporary waiver of World Trade Organization (WTO) intellectual property rules during the Covid-19 pandemic, as proposed by South Africa and India, and supported by more than 100 WTO member states and numerous health experts worldwide.
“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly. This can be achieved through the World Health Organization Covid-19 Technology Access Pool, as your Chief Medical Advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has called for. This will save lives and advance us towards global herd immunity,” they wrote.
The leaders stated that supporting the emergency waiver of Covid-19 related intellectual property rules will give people around the globe a chance to wake up to a world free from the virus.
Al Jazeera further reported that Biden, who made tackling the pandemic a central goal of his presidency, has said the US would share any surplus of vaccines with other countries once all US citizens are vaccinated. But he has provided few details about how the US intends to eventually allocate those doses.
“We will not end today’s global pandemic until rich countries – most especially the US – stop blocking the ability of countries around the world to mass produce safe and effective vaccines,” Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, a Nobel laureate in medicine, said in an Oxfam statement accompanying Wednesday’s open letter.
“That the Biden administration is considering waiving barriers related to intellectual property rules offers hope for the international community. If the United States supports the lifting of patents, Europe will have to take its responsibilities,” Hollande, the former French president, also said as quoted by Al Jazeera.
Leaders of the US, India, Japan and Australia – the so-called “Quad” countries – last month also announced plans to work with the World Health Organization to develop and distribute Covid-19 vaccines to one billion people in the Indo-Pacific region.
In February, hundreds of civil society groups in the US, along with several progressive lawmakers, are keeping up the pressure on the Biden administration to support India’s TRIPS waiver on Covid-19 vaccines.
India along with South Africa is at the forefront in a proposal introduced in October 2020, before the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the TRIPS council, for a waiver during Covid-19 to allow more countries to get equitable access to medicines.
Members of the European Parliament have backed a joint proposal by India and South Africa for waiver on intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccine patents.
In a letter addressed to the European Union leadership dated February, 14 members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have called for a moratorium on the suspension of Covid-19 vaccine patents.
The World Health Organization declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020. To date, more than 138.05 million people have been infected with the coronavirus worldwide, with over 2.91 million fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University.