With the new Omicron strain of the COVID virus threatening the world and other ongoing COVID outbreaks, the need to end the global vaccine apartheid is more urgent than ever.
Less than 5% of people in most low-income countries have received COVID-19 vaccines, while rich countries are reaching 80% or more. Millions are dying while new more infectious strains of the virus develop.
For over a year the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been negotiating a waiver on Intellectual Property rules that would enable vaccine knowledge to be shared to ramp up production in countries like India and South Africa, which already produce cheaper generic medicines.
Health, civil society organisations and unions are holding a vigil today at 12 pm outside the German Consulate to demand WTO rule changes to share vaccine knowledge and protect the world against new COVID threats.
The vigil will remember the millions who have lost their lives because of inaction on vaccine equity. No one is safe until we are all safe.
Why the German Consulate? Because Germany (together with the European Union, UK and Switzerland) is still acting in the interests of big pharmaceutical companies to block a life-saving proposal at the WTO that would waive intellectual property monopolies on COVID vaccines, currently held by a handful of global companies like Pfizer and Moderna. They control the production and price of vaccines and have sold the majority to high income countries.
The Morrison Government has announced their support for the TRIPS waiver proposal, yet has not become an official sponsor of the proposal. The WTO ministerial was postponed this week due to the Omicron COVID outbreak, yet COVID waiver discussions can continue online and through various councils.
Photo and Media opportunity:
- LOCATION: German consulate at 118 Queen St, Melbourne
- TIME: Tuesday 12pm November 30, 2021
- VIGIL: People dressed in black with flowers and candles
Michele O’Neil, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) said
Protection against the virus for everyone is the only way through the pandemic – we urge developed countries to support the TRIPS waiver proposal at the WTO to ensure developing countries can have access to vaccines. An end to the pandemic for all must be prioritised ahead of the profits of big pharmaceutical companies.
Sam Cossar, Friends of the Earth Australia said
No one is safe until we are all safe. The new Omicron COVID strain highlights why we so urgently need rich countries to stop blocking this life saving proposal to free the vaccine from corporate monopolies.
Kate Lappin, Public Services International said
The EU, led by Germany, has blocked the TRIPS Waiver for more than a year. In that time health workers across the global south have risked their lives, working unvaccinated, while Big Pharma has raked in record breaking profits. There is clearly something tragically wrong with our trade rules when they prevent us from ending the pandemic as soon as possible.
Associate Professor Deborah Gleeson from the Public Health Association of Australia said
The TRIPS waiver is vital for enabling sufficient supply of COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostic tests to get the pandemic under control at the global level. We can’t afford to wait any longer for governments to act.
The rally is supported by Friends of the Earth Australia, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Action Aid Australia, Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, the Public Health Association of Australia, Union Aid Abroad/APHEDA , and Public Services International – Asia Pacific. Details can be found on Facebook here.
For more information contact
- Sam Cossar-Gilbert - Friends of the Earth
- [email protected]
- 0413 496 570
- Deborah Gleeson
- [email protected]
- 0423 209 029
- Dr Patricia Ranald - AFTINET Convenor
- Kate Lappin - Public Services International
- [email protected]
- 0424 418 861
Speaking for Union Aid Abroad @apheda @danae_bosler says it's an absolute outrage we have to protest to make vaccines accessible for everyone.— Friends of the Earth (@FoEAustralia) November 30, 2021
Less than 5% of people in low-income countries have received the vaccine #FreeTheVaccine #TRIPSwaiver pic.twitter.com/xUc0nEsvxe
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