Stop blocking cheap generic COVID-19 vaccines

 ActionAid response to joint WHO/UNICEF statement: In the COVID-19 vaccine race, we either win together or lose together, 10 Feb. 


Pharmaceutical companies have already sold almost 70% of the expected 2021 vaccine doses to just a few rich countries. Unless bold action is taken now, the majority of the world’s people will have no escape from the Covid-19 nightmare anytime soon. This is no time for pharmaceutical patents to slow down the rollout of a vaccine that could save lives and livelihoods across the globe. 

ActionAid International Secretary General, Julia Sánchez said: Rich countries stockpiling vaccines will not stop coronavirus because this pandemic respects no borders. WHO and UNICEF have rightly pointed to supply being a major obstacle to protecting the world’s health-workers and vulnerable groups. But pharmaceutical patents are stopping manufacturers from producing generic versions of this vaccine at speed and scale. Money and profit shouldn’t determine who has access to health services. 

ActionAid is calling on rich countries and pharmaceutical companies to stop blocking cheap generic vaccines so they can be developed at speed and scale and meet the immediate needs in developing countries 

“During the HIV pandemic, ActionAid saw first-hand how intellectual property rules and other barriers artificially limited treatment supplies and pushed up prices, resulting in millions of needless deaths. We must not let history repeat itself, Sánchez said. 

Two developing countries hit hardest by the virus, South Africa and India, have called on the World Trade Organisation to waive certain intellectual property rights given today’s circumstances, where the pandemic has led to the greatest recession since the great depression. Australia, along with the United States, the EU, Japan, Canada and Switzerland are among the most vocal opponents of the proposed waiver.  

The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) has called for the Australian Government to commit an additional $500 million in the 2021-22 budget to support a global COVID-19 vaccine and treatment package. 

ActionAid is supporting calls for a People’s Vaccine – a vaccine that is available to all, in all countries, free of charge. 

ActionAid Australia Executive Director, Michelle Higelin said: “While Australia has stepped up to ensure the COVID-19 vaccine covers the Pacific region, more resources are vital to ensure the global rollout reaches all low-income countries, particularly those with large scale COVID-19 outbreaks.  

 Vaccine access has the potential to widen the gap between rich and poor and deepen global inequality unless urgent action is taken.  

In Africa a significant proportion of the population are unlikely to be vaccinated until 2024. 

 Health systems in Africa and Asia are vastly underfunded and ill-prepared for the pandemic. ActionAid research recently found that after years of systematic under-investment, only 15% of low-income countries have health care systems that meet WHO’s minimum standards. Two-thirds of these countries are spending more on debt service payments than public health care. Rich countries have colonized, extracted, demanded repayments on unsustainable loans from lowincome countries and now they are hoarding life-saving vaccines adds Sánchez.  

ActionAid is calling for women and vulnerable groups to be prioritised in any vaccine rollout. Women are at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19, making up to 70% of the global healthcare workforce. They have been carrying most of the burden of additional care work and home schooling since the pandemic hit. They should not be pushed to the back of the queue, wherever they live.   


For more information contact:  Liz Pick, +61 (0) 422 105 840 or [email protected].