“Nobody is safe until everyone is safe”: 100,000 sign petition to waive vaccine patents

The UK is one of the last countries blocking the Covid vaccine intellectual property rights waiver.

Man with mask holding vaccine

A petition calling for the UK Government to temporarily waive intellectual property rights to Covid vaccines has reached more than 100,000 signatures.

The petition is addressed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Trade Secretary Liz Truss, and warns that lack of vaccines in places such as India is creating a human catastrophe.

The 38 degrees petition says: “Experts say temporarily waiving intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines would be transformative in getting the Coronavirus pandemic under control. 

“We have already seen how new variants of the virus can develop when the virus runs unchecked and thwart efforts to control it. That means that nobody is safe from Covid-19 until everyone is safe.”

This comes after over 400 academics, public health experts, civil society organisations, parliamentarians, unions, healthcare workers, and patients signed an open letter to the Prime Minister last month to urge him to waive the Covid vaccine patents.

The letter urged Boris Johnson to “stand on the right side of history” and ensure vaccines would be available to everyone.

The letter, which was organised by Global Justice Now, STOPAIDS and Just Treatment, said: “Action is profoundly urgent. New waves of Covid-19 are rising across the globe while epidemiologists warn that new mutations risk leaving current vaccines ineffective.

“We urge you to now provide the leadership to ensure an end to this global crisis. Defending intellectual property at all costs will not only lead to even more unnecessary loss of lives but is an unprecedented act of collective self-harm.”

Covid vaccines are protected by intellectual property laws such as patents and copyrights.

A waiver of these protections would mean that anyone with the means could produce the vaccine, which would lower the price and increase the number produced.

According to data from Reuters, in 12 countries including Syria, Yemen and Cameroon less than 1% of the population have received their first dose of the Covid vaccine.

There are fears that if the populations of low and middle income countries are left unvaccinated, new variants will emerge which the vaccine will be ineffective against.

In October, India and South Africa proposed a waiver of the intellectual property rights, which was supported by 100 countries and a number of other organisations.

Last month, US President Joe Biden also backed the waiver.

The UK is one of the last remaining countries blocking the waiver.

Ahead of the G7 summit which will be held from Friday in Cornwall, Boris Johnson has urged world leaders to commit to vaccinating the world by the end of 2022.

He said: “The world is looking to us to rise to the greatest challenge of the post-war era – defeating Covid and leading a global recovery driven by our shared values.

“Vaccinating the world by the end of next year would be the single greatest feat in medical history.”

Campaigners have criticised the Prime Minister’s words for “preaching” about the need for global vaccination while blocking the intellectual property waiver.

Director of Global Justice Now Nick Dearden said: “The audacity of Boris Johnson preaching about the need to vaccinate the world is staggering.

“We cannot fully vaccinate the world in such a short period unless we clear away these artificial barriers to vaccine production. Simply setting a deadline is not leadership.”

Mr Dearden urged the Prime Minister to follow in Biden’s footsteps and support the patent waiver.

Alexandra Warren is a freelance journalist.

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