Inequality

  • The widening gap between the world’s richest and poorest people is tearing societies apart. Too many still toil in extreme poverty. In contrast, wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, who can use it to capture disproportionate power to shape the future. The widening gap between the richest and poorest is damaging economies and pushing more people into poverty. There are practical ways to close the gap.

TWITTER ACTION! For a #PeoplesVaccine

We need your help with the campaign this week!

Can you take 10 seconds to encourage your TDs to urge the Irish government to meet with Members of the People’s Vaccine Alliance to discuss the TRIPS waiver and CTAP?

Negotiations for a real solution are ongoing. So now is the time for the Irish government to show support and work to address the global Covid-19 vaccine inequity crisis.

So far our government has towed the line of the pharmaceutical industry and the EU, even though 73 percent of the world haven’t received any vaccine doses yet - leaving them vulnerable and at risk. We need a #Peoplesvaccine to address this global injustice.

Help us amplify our call for a People’s Vaccine and for the Irish government to meet with Alliance Members in three easy steps:

  1. Visit our website
  2. Select your province and constituency
  3. Click to tweet.

We need public pressure to ensure the Irish government does the right thing!

"Half the world thinks this pandemic is over...." - Dr. Mike Ryan

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Solidarity, in an inter-dependent world, must mean . . . standing shoulder to shoulder with those in other countries, especially poorer nations with fewer financial resources, so that, for example, vaccines are made available, accessible and affordable for all.

 

~ President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins

Global access to vaccines will only be possible if many more vaccine manufacturers are permitted to produce vaccines and if pharmaceutical companies agree to share their recipes and know-how.

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TAKE ACTION! For a #PeoplesVaccine

29 June 2021

By Joanne O'Connor, Oxfam Ireland's Content Executive

Later this afternoon I have an appointment at the Aviva Stadium, where a mixture of mRNA, lipids and various multisyllabic compounds will be injected into my arm. The mRNA, which will then be ferried to my cells by teeny tiny lipid particles, will instruct the cells to generate the coronavirus’s spike protein – also known as the bit that kicks off Covid infections. Finally, the generation of this spike protein will spur an immune response that will include the production of antibodies to fight the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

It’s genius.

As the queue meanders slowly through the Aviva, I know I’ll be thinking about the innovation and hard work that led to the development of the Covid-19 vaccine. The hours spent in laboratories and on conference calls, the failed attempts and successes. All to create a jab that has already saved countless lives.

"Half the world thinks this pandemic is over...." - Dr. Mike Ryan

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The other thing I’ll be thinking about is luck – and geography. How lucky I am to be living in Ireland, a country where the vaccine roll-out has been gathering speed. Almost four million people have already received their Covid-19 vaccine, with more than 50,000 daily vaccinations being administered in recent days.

Despite Ireland’s impressive vaccine roll-out, the global pandemic is far from over. In lower-income countries, for instance, just three percent of people have access to a vaccine. The fairest and most effective way to end this pandemic is to ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to a Covid-19 vaccine.

Not only is this the right thing to do, it’s in our self-interest. Ongoing outbreaks mean a greater risk of new vaccine-resistant variants developing. Without global united action, there is no way to defeat Covid-19 in Ireland.

The inequity around vaccine access is a result of decisions taken by governments and must be challenged. Oxfam Ireland is a member of the People's Vaccine Alliance Ireland, which is campaigning to upscale production of Covid-19 vaccines so they are available to everyone, everywhere.

Global access to vaccines will only be possible if many more vaccine manufacturers are permitted to produce vaccines and if pharmaceutical companies agree to share their recipes and know-how.

We're asking the Irish government to take a stand for fairness, equality and global health by calling for a #PeoplesVaccine. Will you join us?

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From Bangladesh to Vietnam, the global south has the capacity to produce Covid-19 vaccines

10 June 2021

“There’s no point in giving somebody a recipe if they don’t have the kitchen or the cooking skills or the ingredients.”

These were the words of Tánaiste Leo Varadkar last month as he claimed that very few countries in the global south had the infrastructural know-how or materials to make Covid-19 vaccines.

This is simply not true.

Companies in Bangladesh and Pakistan are among a group of firms that have unsuccessfully tried to obtain the rights to increase production of Covid-19 vaccines. In fact, Knowledge Ecology International has identified at least 144 manufacturing facilities in 35 countries that could potentially be used to manufacture these vaccines – if we had an open system with distributed manufacturing and technology transfer, and intellectual property (IP) was waived.

Furthermore, there are already manufacturers making safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines and medicines in Brazil, India and South Africa.

Photo: Nataliya Vaitkevich

The EU, among others, have been stalling negotiations on the trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) waiver at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) since October 2020, when a proposal was first put forward by South Africa and India.

While the EU continues to oppose the TRIPS waiver at the WTO, today the European Parliament supported an amendment calling for Europe to support the temporary suspension of intellectual property rules for Covid-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments.

Waiving IP is not the only step, but it is essential. Producing a vaccine is a complex process and requires access to IP, but also direct transfer of technology, knowledge, and – in some cases – materials.

More than a year ago, the World Health Organisation created the Covid-19 Technology Access Pool, or C-TAP, and invited vaccine producers to collaborate to meet the enormous global need for Covid vaccines, an approach recently supported by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs. So far, however, vaccine-makers have refused to engage with C-TAP.

Witnessing this reluctance originally prompted South Africa and India to propose the TRIPS waiver, which is now supported by over 100 countries. They are seeking more forceful legal measures to gain access to IP related to life-saving technologies. After all, the global pandemic is far from over.

Almost 100,000 people are dying of this virus every week in countries without sufficient access to the vaccine. Just 0.2 percent of the vaccines distributed so far have gone to low-income countries.

To win the race against Covid-19 and its new variants, the whole world needs to be vaccinated.

That is why we, along with a number of other organisations, have proposed that a relevant Oireachtas committee undertake an urgent detailed review of Ireland’s position on the TRIPS waiver.

As Ireland and the EU begins to see the benefits of mass vaccination, we cannot stand in the way of the world’s poorest being given the same access to life-saving medicine.

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I don't think there is anyone in India who has not lost a friend, a family member or an acquaintance.

Cheena Kapoor is a Delhi-based photographer and member of the Women Photograph network.  Her photography work explores gender and mental health issues. She has been covering the Covid-19 pandemic since March 2020.

The situation in India right now is, I don't have a word for it. It's really sad. It's shocking. 

We are left on our own and everything from arranging a hospital bed to securing two injections has been very difficult. Those who can afford it are reaching out to black market where items are sold at 20 times, 30 times of what it usually costs, and they are able to procure it. But for people who cannot afford to pay that much, they are left on their own.

No government services are working. No helpline numbers are working. There's no help at all. The previous night we spent the entire night trying to look for a hospital bed for a cousin we had people on the ground, my other cousins, they kept trying visiting different hospitals. They were refused a bed at six hospitals and finally, we were able to move him to a very small nursing home. Today he was told that he needs injections and now the struggle has started again – since this morning, we've been dialling up people to get hold of these injections... We've called multiple hospitals and have still not been able to procure them.

We are anxious all the time. My heart has been racing the last three days and now we are so anxious for our parents. We are in a small town – I had come here on an assignment and myself and my husband got stuck here because both of us tested positive. Both of our parents are in Delhi and they are by themselves so we are really anxious and we just keep talking to them, keep giving them instructions, not to step out. I am ordering groceries for them here online because they cannot – they do not know how to order their groceries online. All these are small, small struggles, but we keep doing it.

I don't think there is anyone in India right now who has not lost a friend, a family member, or at least an acquaintance. We are all hearing of deaths every morning we wake up and we get to know at least two or three deaths. That's been hard.

I am part of some journalist groups, some health groups and these health reporters and I, we have some leads from hospitals. So, we are running helplines and have made social media accounts. We are posting all these leads so people can take advantage of the offers. If you get to know that there is an oxygen cylinder available, somewhere in the city, we'll post it on our social media so that people can go and procure it.

Dr Ratnesh Kunwar is sprayed with sanitiser after finishing his rounds in the world's largest makeshift Covid hospital in Delhi

People who have access to internet are able to get some help but people in the slums, the underprivileged, they have nowhere to go. They can't even go to the hospitals because everything is super expensive right now. There are no ambulances available.

To get an ambulance you have to dial up people, they'll give you some preferences and they'll give you 10 contact numbers, only one of those will work and that ambulance driver will charge a lot. Somebody paid around £200 to go only four kilometres. People in the slums have even stopped trying. 

Everything from getting the disease to people who are dying – everything is difficult. Even getting them cremated is difficult because there is a two day wait at the cremation grounds. They are full and acquiring wood for cremation is difficult. People are just telling the family members to arrange it yourself.

People are now running around for cremation wood. Recently Delhi ran out of cremation wood and the government has ordered the forest department to cut down trees. Delhi is already is the most polluted city in the world and they are now cutting down trees because we do not have enough electric electrical crematoriums. I read that there's a place in Delhi where they cremate dogs and pets. I think that's also being used for humans now.

That's the condition we are in right now. and the worst part is your support system isn’t there. Right now, everyone is fighting their own battle, your support system has collapsed.

The ICU of the Delhi hospital which is run by the Defence Research and Development Organisation

When I photographed in the hospitals, I visited for four days at a stretch. This was in November, and we were seeing a huge spike in Delhi because that was the festival season and even during that time, all the hospitals had run out of beds. That was a huge spike, it was overwhelming.

It was difficult seeing people in the ICU and because we also shot photos of the reception area, we would see doctors or healthcare workers refusing families because they were running out of beds. We saw all that happening. We would see patients dying and families crying and it was overwhelming. 

It stayed with me. Patients who were on their own for weeks and their families couldn't visit them and they had all lost all hope. When you talk to these patients, you feel their pain, so it hasn't been very easy covering Covid.

There's not a single person in the country who has not been affected directly or indirectly, not just Covid, but non-Covid care has completely come to a halt. India has the highest number of TB patients, cancer patients.

Everything is on hold. We have seen a threefold increase in still births because of malnutrition, because the government ran these nutritional programmes and all of those had come to a stop and so women in rural areas were not getting their nutrition.

The nutritional profile of the country has gone down. All of this put together, I think we are in a very bad situation. Even if this current wave slows, we are at least a decade behind where we were in terms of our healthcare goals and otherwise, so it is right now a very bad situation.

Photos: Cheena Kapoor

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Cashing in on the pandemic... Covid vaccine monopoly creates nine new billionaires

20 May 2021

There’s no doubt about it – the pandemic has been a massive windfall for Big Pharma’s top executives.

At least nine people have become billionaires since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic due to the huge profits generated by pharmaceutical companies which have monopolies on vaccine production, the People’s Vaccine Alliance has revealed.

These nine new billionaires have a combined net wealth of $19.3 billion, enough to fully vaccinate people in low-income countries 1.3 times.

Despite being home to 10 percent of the world’s population, these countries have received just 0.2 per cent of the global supply of vaccines because of the massive shortfall in available doses.

In addition, eight existing billionaires, who have extensive portfolios in the Covid-19 vaccine pharma corporations, have seen their combined wealth increase by $32.2 billion, enough to fully vaccinate everyone in India.

A nurse in a PPE kit attends to patients recovering from coronavirus at the Commonwealth Games facility for Covid patients in New Delhi, India, a country devastated by Covid-19. Photo: RoannaRahman/Oxfam

The People’s Vaccine Alliance made the announcement ahead of a G20 leaders Global Health Summit which takes place tomorrow, 21 May.

Key members of the G20, including the UK and Germany, are blocking moves to boost supply by ending monopoly control of vaccine production. They are even doing so as Covid-19 continues to devastate lives in countries like India and Nepal where only a tiny fraction of the population has been vaccinated.

Campaigners from the People’s Vaccine Alliance – whose members include Global Justice Now, Oxfam and UNAIDS, analysed Forbes Rich List data to highlight the massive wealth being generated for a handful of people from vaccines which were largely public funded.

Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s Health Policy Manager, said: “What a testament to our collective failure to control this cruel disease that we quickly create new vaccine billionaires but totally fail to vaccinate the billions who desperately need to feel safe.

These billionaires are the human face of the huge profits many pharmaceutical corporations are making from the monopoly they hold on these vaccines. These vaccines were funded by public money and should be first and foremost a global public good, not a private profit opportunity. We need to urgently end these monopolies so that we can scale up vaccine production, drive down prices and vaccinate the world.

Earlier this month, the US backed proposals by South Africa and India at the World Trade Organisation to temporarily break up these monopolies and lift the patents on Covid-19 vaccines. This move has the support of over 100 developing countries, and in recent days countries like Spain have also declared their support, as has the Pope and over 100 world leaders and Nobel laureates.

Despite this, other rich nations, including the UK and Germany, are still blocking the proposal, putting the interest of pharmaceutical companies over what’s best for the world. Italy, which is hosting tomorrow’s G20 Global Health Summit, is continuing to sit on the fence on the issue, as are Canada and France.

The nine new vaccine billionaires, in order of their net worth are:

  1. Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO (worth $4.3bn)
  2. Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech (worth $4bn)
  3. Timothy Springer, immunologist and founding investor of Moderna (worth $2.2bn)
  4. Noubar Afeyan, Moderna’s Chairman (worth $1.9bn)
  5. Juan Lopez-Belmonte, Chairman of ROVI, a company with a deal to manufacture and package the Moderna vaccine (worth $1.8bn)
  6. Robert Langer, scientist and founding investor in Moderna (worth $1.6bn)
  7. Zhu Tao, co-founder and chief scientific officer at CanSino Biologics (worth $1.3bn)
  8. Qiu Dongxu, co-founder and senior vice president at CanSino Biologics (worth $1.2bn)
  9. Mao Huinhua, also co-founder and senior vice president at CanSino Biologics (worth $1bn)
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