Politico reported Okonjo-Iweala’s remarks during the G7 summit on June 12, where she said, “Inequity of access to vaccines is unacceptable.” She warned that vaccine production is centralized in the US, Europe, and China and added, “It’s clear that going forward as part of preparing for the next pandemic, we must decentralize production” to create “different hubs for manufacturing medical supplies, and especially vaccines.”
South Africa and India were the first countries to propose an IP waiver on COVID-19 vaccines, which has since gained the support of more than 100 countries. If adopted, the waiver would help nations overcome legal barriers preventing them from producing their own vaccines and treatments and put the world on the best course to defeat the pandemic. WTO members recently agreed to start formal negotiations on how to increase vaccine access but will have to debate competing proposals – one with a patent waiver, one without.
“While we’re glad to hear the announcement of a donation of one billion vaccine doses by G7 leaders, that is not nearly enough to vaccinate the world, and delivery overall has been far too slow,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “We absolutely support Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s call to share intellectual property on COVID-19 vaccine technology. Increased international cooperation prompted the sharing of IP and the generic production of antiretroviral medicines for HIV and saved millions of lives. It worked for the AIDS pandemic, and G7 leaders have the power to do the same thing for COVID-19. But they can’t delay any further – they must agree to waive the patents immediately.”
Of the nearly 2.4 billion vaccinations that have been given worldwide, less than 1% have taken place in low-income countries. While the global average of administered vaccines is 24 doses per 100 people, that number is far less in Africa, where only about two doses per 100 people are given – and several countries have no vaccine access at all.
Okonjo-Iweala continued her push to ensure global equity in the battle against the pandemic on June 14 by calling on WTO member states to drop trade barriers associated with medical supplies used to combat COVID-19 that had recently increased. The WTO chief stated, “We need to bring those restrictions down so we can move…medical goods and supplies and vaccines (faster),” as reported by Reuters.