200 signatories to an open letter have called on world leaders to “never again” allow “profiteering and nationalism” to come before the needs of humanity, in the wake of the pandemic.
The Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, former first lady of South Africa and Mozambique, Graça Machel, and former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon are among the signatories.
The letter, coordinated by the People’s Vaccine Alliance, comes on the third anniversary of the declaration by the World Health Organisation, WHO, that the coronavirus outbreak had become a pandemic.
In a scathing open letter, published on 11 March, current and former presidents and ministers, Nobel laureates, faith leaders, heads of civil society organisations and health experts say Covid-19 vaccines and treatments had been developed with public funding but that pharmaceutical companies had exploited them to “fuel extraordinary profits”.
Instead of distributing vaccines, tests and treatments based on need, companies sold doses to the “richest countries with the deepest pockets”, the letter says.
This inequity has led to 1.3m preventable deaths worldwide – one every 24 seconds – in the first year of the Covid vaccine rollout alone, according to analysis based on a study published in the Lancet. “That those lives were not saved is a scar on the world’s conscience,” the letter continues.
The letter urges world leaders to support a pandemic accord that is currently under negotiation at the WHO and treat publicly funded medicines as “global common goods … used to maximise the public benefit, not private profits”.
The letter calls for the removal of intellectual property barriers that prevent the sharing of scientific knowledge and technology and for governments to support and invest in research and development.
It also called on governments to provide support for the WHO’s mRNA hub, which is sharing vaccine technology with producers in 15 low and middle-income countries.