Statement on World Intellectual Property Day: The World Must Unite Against Vaccine Apartheid

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As the World marks the World Intellectual Property Day, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) notes with concern how the Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across the world. Zimbabwe has lost 1557 lives with 36 086 having been affected by the pandemic since March 2020

The discovery of vaccines came as a relief to many. However, there is a great challenge in the accessibility and affordability of vaccines especially by poor continents like Africa due to patents rights of the Covid-19 vaccinations. The vaccines will be scarcely available in developing countries as a result of poverty and intellectual property rights threatening the right to health and the right to life.

 

Section 76 of the Zimbabwe Constitution, like Article 1 of the African Charter, obligates the State to take legislative and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to it, to achieve the progressive realization of the right to health. It is ZimRights’ view that with the stringent patent and trademark laws on the international frontier, this right is far from being realised. Unless and until the world comes to an agreement that during times of humanitarian crisis profit-making should be balanced with the need to preserve lives, lives will continue to be lost. ZimRights urges businesses including pharmaceutical companies to be driven by the need to reduce the Covid-19 deaths and ZimRights believes patent waiver is one of the actions that will increase vaccine accessibility.

It is understandable that a balance must be struck between open or easing the intellectual property laws to allow innovation and production as well as saving lives. Undeniably business must make profits but it can only make profit when people are alive.

Today, the world is witnessing a monumental moral failure as a wide variety of vaccines flood rich countries while the developing world is forced to depend on handouts of vaccines whose efficacy is still in doubt.

It is this desire to save lives that ZimRights with other partners under the #PeoplesVaccineCampaign is calling on pharmaceutical corporations to waiver patents for the much-needed COVID-19 vaccinations. ZimRights calls on world leaders to ensure that the widening gap of vaccine access between the developing countries and the developed countries is closed. This can be done through waiving patent rights for COVID-19 vaccines and increasing funding for procurement, science, research and awareness programmes related to COVID-19. As we have noted before, no one is safe from COVID-19 until all of us are safe. Beyond our interconnectedness as a society, our moral conscience as a rights-respecting society demands that we take extra-ordinary measures to combat the raging vaccine apartheid.

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