Ahead of the G7 summit this week, Médecins Sans Frontières Australia is calling on the Australian government to immediately donate surplus vaccines that have been manufactured in Australia to COVAX.
Australia, along with India, South Africa and South Korea, is an invitee to the G7 meeting this year. Simon Eccleshall, MSF Australia’s Head of Programs is calling on the Government to show leadership.
“We would encourage Australia to use its influence and its own regional example to call on G7 countries to immediately share as many doses as possible with low- and middle-income countries who have been left empty handed," said Eccleshall.
“Australia’s generosity in sharing limited vaccine doses with countries in its immediate region is welcomed, but the quickest way to end the pandemic will be to support global mechanisms like COVAX, to ensure timely access to vaccines for those countries and communities most affected and to reduce the scope for new variants of the virus to emerge."
“Australia also needs to do all it can to support the timely completion of text-based negotiations on the TRIPS waiver at the WTO, which would help level the playing field in this pandemic and ensure access to critical COVID-19 medical tools.”
G7 leaders are meeting to discuss the pandemic response against the backdrop of over 3.7 million COVID-19 deaths and alarming and growing inequity around access to COVID-19 medical tools. These leaders have not taken steps to ensure that the scarce supply of COVID-19 medical tools is equitably shared based upon the public health criteria outlined by the World Health Organization, instead aiming to reach herd immunity for their own populations before even the most vulnerable people are vaccinated in low- and middle-income countries.
"The quickest way to end the pandemic will be to support global mechanisms like COVAX."
The ongoing widespread transmission of the coronavirus in regions with poor access to testing, treatment and vaccines means COVID-19 continues to claim thousands of lives each day, pushing health systems in many countries where MSF works to the brink of collapse.
“While several G7 countries are well on their way to getting back to ‘normal,’ having pursued herd immunity strategies before sharing doses with others, most low- and middle-income countries have been left empty-handed as they face additional deadly waves of disease,” said Dr Christos Christou, MSF’s International President.
“G7 countries, which have ordered many more vaccines than they need, should immediately share as many doses as possible with low- and middle-income countries. Every day that passes is another missed opportunity to protect millions of people globally from this killer disease. It’s precisely the actions of the G7 governments, among others, that have led to the grave global inequities we see in access to COVID-19 medical tools now, despite several of these leaders having stated early on that such tools should be treated as ‘global public goods.
During the pandemic, MSF has repeatedly seen how control of global production and supply of lifesaving medical tools based on intellectual property and technology ownership by a handful of multinational pharmaceutical corporations has created multiple obstacles for countries to secure reliable access. G7 leaders have so far not shown any willingness to break from the status quo and exert influence on pharmaceutical corporations for sharing the technology that was largely developed with public funding.
G7 governments must urgently work with other governments to use all policy options available to facilitate and mandate transparent, unconditional, enforceable and full transfer of technologies of COVID-19 medical tools, particularly vaccines, by companies they host to manufacturers in all regions, and especially in low- and middle-income countries, in order to ensure access for everyone, everywhere. It’s time for change, not charity.
It is regrettable that over half of the G7 leaders continue to ignore low- and middle-income countries’ demands to be self-reliant in the production and supply of medicines, vaccines and diagnostics needed to tackle the pandemic. Instead, they keep blocking critical decisions in multilateral fora to lift corporate monopolies in the pandemic to facilitate global production and diversification of supply, such as the proposed temporary COVID-19 intellectual property waiver at the World Trade Organization.
"G7 leaders must act in solidarity and support necessary measures to ensure that each country has sufficient tools to save as many lives as possible in this pandemic,” said Dr Christou, MSF’s International President.