by Julie Bouanna and Jennifer Mas Gilvydis
On this Global Day of Action for Vaccine Equity, and for the pandemic to truly end, we need more global access to the COVID-19 vaccine. It is our best chance at ending the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed 6 million people, though some estimates put the number closer to 20 million worldwide. Vaccinations protect against the formation of new and possibly more lethal variants. President Biden has committed to vaccinating 70% of the world’s population by this fall; yet, as of today, the White House still has no plan in place to ensure sufficient manufacturing of COVID-19 technologies, including vaccines, to ensure global access needed to end the pandemic.
Thankfully, members of Congress have introduced a plan of their own: the “End the Pandemic Now” resolution, or H.Con.Res.60. This resolution calls for three concrete actions the White House can take right now to bring this terrifying chapter of history to an end:
- Unlock intellectual property barriers via a temporary waiver of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules now limiting global production (called a TRIPS waiver).
- Require the sharing of vaccine formulas and know-how with qualified producers around the world.
- Provide financial support for regional and domestic vaccine manufacturing hubs.
This plan would put us on a fast track to end the pandemic. Many people in the United States may feel like the pandemic is coming to an end as states lift mask mandates, people return to offices, and students attend in-person school. With so much of life returning to “normal,” people may wonder why we need a TRIPS waiver at all. The reality is that without this waiver, the pandemic won’t end. Until everyone is vaccinated, mutations like delta and omicron will continue to occur, and no one will be safe.
The only way to prevent future and potentially more deadly strains of COVID-19 is to ensure that every country has access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments through a TRIPS waiver to allow for global manufacturing. As it stands, Rep. Pramila Jayapal is the only Washington representative who has signed on to H.Con.Res.60. Help us put the pressure on elected officials by contacting your local representatives to encourage them to support the measure.
Additionally, join us for a Global Day of Action on Friday, March 11. Two years after the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, people will be gathering in 25 cities around the world to demand that we do more to stop COVID-19 and more needless deaths. In Seattle, we will gather at Red Square at the University of Washington at 1:00 p.m. on March 11 to highlight the need for concrete steps to be put into place to end vaccine inequality. We need to call on global leaders to end COVID-19 monopolies and help vaccinate the world and pressure the WTO into approving the TRIPS waiver.
As the pandemic has made clear again and again: No one is safe until everyone is safe.
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Julie Bouanna is the director of the Washington Fair Trade Coalition, and organizes for trade policy that benefits the people and the planet.
Jennifer Mas Gilvydis is a senior health researcher and program implementer working with infectious diseases and pandemic preparedness for global health.
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