Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | UNAIDS Executive Director Engineer Winnie Byanyima has advised that COVID-19 vaccines must be free to all races in case Scientists discover one. She says World leaders must unite behind the development what she has called “a people vaccine”
Byanyima in a message ahead of the opening of the 73rd World Health Assembly says in the event that an effective vaccine for COVID-19 is discovered, there must be equality between the developed and least developed countries in accessing it.
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the 73rd World Health Assembly will be virtual beginning tomorrow Monday 18 May until Tuesday. The meeting is expected to among others the COVID-19 pandemic response including the vaccine development and treatment.
The outspoken former Uganda legislator says no one should be sent on the back of the COVID-19 queue because of the colour of their skin or the money in their pocket.
Byanyima’s voice is in addition to calls by more than 140 world leaders and experts that have signed an open letter calling on all governments to unite behind a people’s vaccine against COVID-19. The letter demands that all vaccines, treatments and tests be patent-free, mass produced, distributed fairly and made available to all people, in all countries, free of charge.
The leaders, mostly from Africa and Latin America among others join notable economists, health advocates and others, from Nobel Laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, to Moussa Faki, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr John Nkengasong, Director of African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dainius Puras, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
“Billions of people, today await a vaccine that is our best hope of ending this pandemic,” said Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa. “As the countries of Africa, we are resolute that the COVID-19 vaccine must be patent-free, rapidly made and distributed, and free for all. All science must be shared between governments. Nobody should be pushed to the back of the vaccine queue because of where they live or what they earn.”
“We must work together to beat this virus. We must pool all the knowledge, experience and resources at our disposal for the good of all humanity,” said Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan.
“No leader can rest easy until every individual in every nation is able to rapidly access a vaccine free of charge.” The letter, coordinated by UNAIDS and Oxfam, warns that the world cannot afford monopolies and competition to stand in the way of the universal need to save lives.
“This is an unprecedented crisis and it requires an unprecedented response,” said former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
“Learning the lessons from the fight against Ebola, governments must remove all the barriers to the development and rapid roll-out of vaccines and treatments. No interest is more important than the universal need to save lives”
The leaders recognize that progress is being made and that many countries and international organizations are cooperating multilaterally on research and development, funding and access, including the welcome USD 8 billion pledged on 4 May at the European Union’s international pledging marathon.
However, as many countries and companies are proceeding with unprecedented speed to develop an effective vaccine, the leaders are calling for concrete commitments to ensure that it is made affordable and available to all in the quickest possible time.