Australia has vital role to play in ensuring equal access to vaccines

Commenting on Friday’s announcement that The University of Queensland and CSL COVID-19 vaccine trial has been abandoned, Amnesty International Australia campaigner Joel Mackay said:

“Australia has a vital role to play in the equal access of vaccines, particularly in our region.

“New or expanded agreements on vaccines should include provisions for the common good, and include additional vaccines for partners in the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

“We want Australia to be the good global citizen when it comes to promoting and defending human rights, especially in the time of COVID-19.”

Under international human rights law, countries have an obligation to work together to respond to the pandemic, and wealthier states have a special responsibility to assist states with fewer resources. But some governments have already adopted a “me first” approach that could undermine the efficacy of a future vaccine.

“The Australian Government must outline how many ordered vaccine doses are likely required and how many will be made available to our regional partners, as well as purchasing additional to ensure that Australia is contributing towards equal access.”

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has called on governments to stop blocking a temporary waiver of some global intellectual property rules that will help boost global access to COVID-19 vaccines.

The World Trade Organization met in Geneva last week to discuss a proposal to temporarily exempt vaccines from some provisions of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement. The proposal would facilitate technology transfers so that COVID-19 medical products including vaccines could be produced quickly and affordably by manufacturers around the world. Higher-income countries have already made deals to buy up the vast majority of the world’s potential vaccine supplies for 2021, so the move would help scale up access for people in lower-income countries.

WTO members failed to reach an agreement on the proposal and deferred discussions to a later meeting.