Universal access to vaccines a human right; time of Australia to step up in the Pacific

Amnesty International Australia welcomes the Federal Government’s announcement of an additional $200m to go towards the COVID-19 vaccine roll out in the Pacific in Timor-Leste, but is calling for the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator Zed Seselja, to push for universal access, Amnesty International Australia campaigner, Joel MacKay said

“It is as though Australia doesn’t want our neighbours to be able to be vaccinated; there’s no plan for universal access for the region, we’re hoarding vaccines that we should be sharing, and we are blocking the TRIPS waiver proposal.

“Australia needs to be fighting against COVID-19 on behalf of every single person in the Pacific. We have a responsibility to our neighbours — Senator Seselja should, in partnership with COVAX and New Zealand, be aiming for universal access to the vaccine.

“Universal access to COVID-19 vaccines is a human right. Our rights to health and the right to the benefits of scientific progress demand universal access.

“Australia also has obligations under international law that call us to be striving for universal access. The government must combat the pandemic in a manner that supports other countries, such as by ensuring that no decision or unilateral measure obstructs access to essential goods.

“It is embarrassing that Australia is blocking the TRIPS waiver proposal that would allow more countries to manufacture and access COVID-19 health products, including vaccines. The Australian Government must stop blocking this important reform.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison today announced that Australia had ordered another 10 million Pfizer vaccine doses. MacKay said:

“We know that Australia has ‘over-ordered’ COVID-19 vaccine doses. We have enough to support the Pacific, we now need a plan, worked out with our Pacific neighbours to ensure it happens.