This is a critical time in the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic. For 15 months, nations have struggled to come to grips with fighting Covid 19 as they face second and third waves of the virus, with case numbers and deaths still too high as the coronavirus strain mutates and takes hold and others see light at the end of a long and dark tunnel.
But this is, above all, a global fight — one that requires a concerted international effort to defeat this vicious and invisible enemy. And key to this is the provision of vaccines to all — an access based not on the ability to pay or benefit from pharmaceutical reserves — but based on equality of mankind, where every patient has the best shot at recovery and where every person is protected.
On Wednesday, US president Joe Biden took the bold and very welcome step of making vaccines available to all by waiving intellectual property right for Covid-19 vaccines. This is the first step in what will be a long negotiating process — one that will be opposed tooth and nail by pharmaceutical interests the world over — but it is a key moment in the global fight against this devastating pandemic.
Right now, there is a blatant disparity between those who have access to jabs and those who do not — it is the arms race as such of our generation, presenting perhaps the greatest moral challenge for the global community. And President Biden’s move is a key step in erasing those disparities between rich and poor, the protected and the vulnerable.
This is a move that will face a strong pushback from pharmaceutical companies, where their influence will be brought to bear, where their financial heft and legal muscles will be flexed. But this is not about corporate rights — this is about the right of all. Drug manufacturers profit from keeping people well. And this vaccine is about keeping all well. Ultimately, that Hippocratic Oath formed millennia ago in ancient Greece dictates that the medical profession should do no harm. And that is a mantra we must face now. This virus should do no more harm — and mass vaccines cheaply produced without intellectual or proprietary rights is the only realistic way forward. Yes, there will be opposition, but this is the right thing to do. We now have a very real chance to beat this pandemic together — and who would not want that?