Nurses unions in 28 countries have filed a formal appeal with the United Nations against the refusal of the UK, EU and others to temporarily waive patents for Covid vaccines, claiming it has cost lives to a large number of developing countries.
The letter, sent on Monday on behalf of unions representing more than 2.5 million healthcare workers, said staff have witnessed first-hand the “staggering number of deaths and immense suffering caused by political inaction.”
The refusal of some countries to move on the rules on intellectual property rights for vaccines has contributed to a “vaccine apartheid” in which the richest countries got at least 7 billion doses, while the low income have about 300 million, he argued.
Such a distribution was not only “grossly unfair”, according to the letter, but the widespread transmission of Covid in developing countries has also increased the risk of the emergence of new variants, such as Omicron, first identified this week in South Africa and which prompted the UK and other countries to tighten travel restrictions and other rules.
South Africa, along with India, lobbied the World Trade Organization (WTO) to help improve access to vaccines by dropping the multinational agreement on aspects of intellectual property rights (travel ) trade-related.
A temporary waiver of the travel arrangements for Covid vaccines would allow, according to supporters, to manufacture them more widely, thereby improving global distribution. US President Joe Biden on Friday called on WTO members to take this step following the emergence of the Omicron variant.
However, other countries resisted. The letter to the UN – coordinated by umbrella healthcare organization Global Nurses United and Progressive International, a collection of left-wing parties, movements and unions – cited what it called an “immediate threat to human rights. people to health ”from the EU, UK, Norway, Switzerland and Singapore.
He said at least 115,000 medical and health workers worldwide have died from Covid, and while an average of 40% have been fully vaccinated, in Africa and the Western Pacific the figure is lower to one in 10.
“As frontline workers, we are well placed to testify against the violation of everyone’s right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health due to the impact of a delayed waiver of Covid-19 travel” , the letter warned.
It was sent to Tlaleng Mofokeng, a South African doctor and health activist who is the UN special rapporteur on physical and mental health, and has the authority to launch an investigation under the Human Rights Council. UN man.
Mofokeng said the request for a patent waiver “is one that I share.” The role that health workers played during the pandemic “gives them moral authority” on the issue, she added.
In addition to South Africa and India, the call comes from unions representing nurses and health workers in the United States, Ireland, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Malawi, New Zealand, Paraguay, Philippines, Portugal, Rwanda, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Uganda and Uruguay.
Deborah Burger, co-chair of the National Nurses United in the United States, said the uneven distribution of vaccines and the resulting likelihood of new variants of Covid “poses a serious risk to everyone in the world.”
Shirley Marshal Díaz Morales, vice-president of the Brazilian union Federação Nacional dos Enfermeiros, said: “It is high time the governments of the world put the health of the people first over the profits of multinational corporations by approving the exemption. vaccine. ”