Policy and Advocacy

A year in pictures what we accomplished together in 2021

Pascaline, public health officer, shows the community at the Mwaka IDP site, DRC, how to use a new handwashing station that can be quickly installed in a variety of emergency settings. Photo: Arlette Bashizi/Oxfam

2021. So much continuing turbulation and uncertainty for everyone. A year – another one – when the need for us all to stand up and stand together, to help others, has been so very difficult to do. But a year – another one – when time after time, across the world in big ways and small, the power of people to organize, reach out and help one another prevailed – inevitable, vital, positive and affirming – again and again.

 

End of Year 2021

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Our supporters and partners reached over 25 million people last year through Oxfam’s humanitarian and programmatic work, more than 14 million of them directly from our Covid-related responses. With your support, we worked with 4128 partner agencies and implemented 1843 projects worldwide. Thank you. We hope all of our supporters, partners, staff, the people living in the communities across the world, can take a moment of reflection and pride in this snapshot of stories that hint of the work we accomplished together to make a real difference in many millions of people’s lives in 2021.
Photo: Roanna Rahman/Oxfam

In India, we raced against time to protect the most vulnerable from Covid-19.

When the second wave of COVID-19 hit India in late April, it created a public health crisis that left hospitals overwhelmed and people literally dying in the streets. In less than a month, the country saw more than 100,000 deaths, bringing the total death toll to more than 300,000 – the third highest in the world behind the United States and Brazil. To help government hospitals cope with this deadly second wave, Oxfam procured and delivered medical equipment such as oxygen generators, thermometers and oxygen tanks, beds, and personal protective equipment (PPE) kits for frontline health workers. We also assisted people who have lost their means of livelihood and helped migrant workers stranded far from home with no work, money or food during lockdowns.
Photo: Kaff Media/Oxfam

In Yemen, we worked tirelessly to provide relief to the most affected.

Salem* and his son Omar* (name changed) had been displaced four times before moving to Alswidan Camp in Marib, Yemen, where they now live with five other members of the family in a tiny tent. Each time they would leave behind everything and walk for days to reach their next safe location. Omar was born in 2015, the year the war in Yemen started – war is all he has ever known. Conflict continued for a sixth year in Yemen, devastating livelihoods and leaving 13.5 million people suffering from acute hunger. Almost 70 percent of the population urgently need humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing clean water and hygiene items to help people avoid cholera and COVID-19, cash to help them buy food, and support for earning a living through agriculture and small businesses.
Photo: Hosam Salem/Oxfam

In Gaza, we helped Palestinians rebuild and recover from violence.

Abdelsamad Alqanou, Oxfam Water and Sanitation officer, is following the implementation of water and sewage maintenance work in a neighbourhood in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza. After 11 days of intense bombardment over the Gaza Strip, a ceasefire was called on the 21st of May. According to the Ministry of Health, 242 Palestinians were killed, and 1,900 were injured. Israeli attacks caused severe damages to residential and commercial buildings, schools, and infrastructure, including roads, electricity networks, water installations and agricultural lands. Over 2,500 people have been made homeless due to the destruction of their homes. To meet the urgent needs, Oxfam provided water and sanitation services with spare parts for operation and maintenance during emergencies, including water and sewage pipes, valves, pumps, filters, and oil.
Photo: Shaikh Ashraf Ali/Oxfam

In Bangladesh, we strove to promote health and safety across the refugee camps.

In July, several days of heavy monsoon rain in Southeast Bangladesh led to severe flooding and landslides in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps. Rainwater displaced families and inundated roads and bridges, shelters, and critical infrastructure – heightening the risk of water-borne illness.

Impacted communities were surrounded by water—but none of it was safe to drink. The flooding occurred as Bangladesh was logging a record spike in Covid-19 cases – placing refugees, host communities, and responders at heightened risk from the virus.

With our partners, we provided critical repairs to water and sanitation facilities, distributed jerry cans of emergency drinking water and water purification tablets, and shared essential health awareness information to keep refugees safe in the crisis. (Photo: Shaikh Ashraf Ali/Oxfam)

Photo: Mustafa Osman/Oxfam

In South Sudan, we protected girls’ education from the pandemic impacts.

Winnie (name changed), 17, is a graduate student in Oxfam’s Education for Life-program in Juba, South Sudan. A lot of young girls in her area have left school during the lockdown, but with Oxfam’s support, many have been able to return. “I knew that I would eventually go back to school after the lockdown. My biggest dream is to become a lawyer, to solve the issues in my society,” says Winnie.

Women and girls have been the most severely affected by conflict, COVID-19, and climate change in South Sudan. The pandemic and resulting closure of schools in March 2020 exacerbated many of the challenges they face in pursuing an education, like early and forced marriage, teen pregnancy and gender-based violence.

Photo: Zaid Al-Bayati/Oxfam

In Iraq, we supported families with cash assistance and grants to start businesses.

It is four years since the city of Mosul and its environs were returned from ISIS control to that of the Government of Iraq.  Thousands of families, who had fled the violence and lived in camps, are now returning. They join others living among destroyed houses, lacking access to healthcare, education, and water. The challenges are immense. We have been supporting people of Mosul with cash assistance, grants to start businesses, repairs to schools and access to water.

Farah (name changed) started her own hair salon after the liberation of the city. It is the main income now for her and her family. “After ISIS everything changed. I gained more independence as now our society has finally realized that women can provide not only for themselves but for their kids and whole family”, she said.

Photo: Arlene Bax/Oxfam

In Vanuatu, we used blockchain technology to revolutionize humanitarian aid.

In times of crisis, traditional aid distributions of food, shelter and other emergency supplies are not always the best or most efficient way to provide relief. Oxfam is one of the first humanitarian organisations to use blockchain technology for cash transfer programming, to deliver emergency cash in a faster, cheaper and more transparent fashion than ever before.


The UnBlocked Cash solution consists of the e-voucher “tap-and-pay” cards used by beneficiaries, a smartphone app through which vendors receive the payments, and an online platform where NGOs like Oxfam can monitor transactions remotely and in real-time.


After a ground-breaking pilot in Vanuatu, we scaled the project to distribute cash and voucher assistance to over 35,000 beneficiaries affected by the Category 5 Cyclone Harold and COVID-19. 
 

Photo: Juanito Bantong/Oxfam

In the Philippines, we sowed the seeds of climate resiliency.

When devastating Typhoon Goni barreled across the Philippines November 2020, it came at the worst possible time - rice harvest season – and while the region was still reeling from the effects of Typhoon Quinta a week before. These typhoons are a common occurrence in the country. They have grown in severity and frequency and are in large part due to climate change. Every time, it takes months for farmers to recover. 


After Typhoon Goni, Rice Watch Action Network (RWAN) offered community leaders in Carangcang village to help them start growing vegetables hydroponically (without soil) through a project funded by Oxfam. Instead of distributing seeds, RWAN and Oxfam distributed seedlings. This way, not only would the community have seeds, but they also had the ability to grow plants that could supply seeds to other farmers. 
 

Photo: Samuel Turpin/Oxfam

In Burkina Faso, we helped farmers grow food in a hot and dry climate.

Imagine growing vegetables in temperatures approaching 50 degrees with recurrent droughts. In Burkina Faso, where farmers struggle to survive the effects of climate change, it is a matter of survival for much of the population that depends on agriculture for their food. “All my life I have been farming," says Alizeta Sawadogo, 55, “I used to grow cereals. But it rains less and less, and the dry season is getting longer and hotter. Yields are getting lower and lower.”


With the support of Oxfam and local partner ATAD, Alizeta joined a group of 50 vulnerable and landless women in a collective farm of two hectares, where she learned about climate change adaptation. For Alizeta, it is an opportunity to reinvent herself: “I have learned to produce organic food using environmentally friendly techniques,” she says. “I can feed my family all year round.” 
 

Photo: Tatiana Cardeal/Oxfam

In Brazil, we revealed labour exploitation in coffee farms.

Inequality in the food system has never been higher. Despite the food industry generating revenue of trillions of dollars annually the vast numbers of people who go to bed hungry are themselves food producers or agricultural workers. Covid-19 has sharpened these inequalities and pushed many food workers and farmers in the Global South into greater poverty.

FELIPE NAME CHANGED, 33, lives in the north of the state of Minas Gerais, where he earns his living from temporary jobs. With the pandemic, opportunities became scarce. He worked in slavery-like conditions on a coffee farm in the south of the state. He and a colleague harvested about 2.5 tons of coffee a day and received no salary. They drank contaminated water, slept on the floor and received no equipment to protect themselves from Covid-19.

Photo: Andy Aitchison/Oxfam

In cities across the world, we marched for climate justice.

Climate change has no borders and affects us all. It especially hurts those in poorer countries, which are also the countries that contribute the least to it. The next decade is critical to putting us onto a safer track. We only have eight years left to turn the tides and prevent a catastrophic global temperature rise.

As world leaders gathered at COP26 in Glasgow, we joined the World Climate March to pressure them to act now on the climate crisis. On 6th of November, the Global Day of Action saw thousands of people marching for climate justice in cities and towns across the world. In Glasgow and London our march brought the voices of thousands of activists, particularly the most affected people and areas, to the streets via video screens, ad-bikes and pedicabs.

Fighting Wildfires - South Africa

Wildfires are a naturally occurring phenomenon in South Africa's Western Cape province, and play an important role in regulating local ecosystems. Yet experts say changing weather patterns are making these fires more frequent and harder to control. In April 2021, a fire erupted on the side of Table Mountain in Cape Town and burned for several days, destroying buildings and prompting mass evacuations before finally being brought under control by hundreds of firefighters and volunteers. On the day it began, some weather stations showed temperatures up to 17 degrees higher than average. Over the past six decades, temperatures in Cape Town have been steadily rising, and rainfall becoming more erratic. Among those on the frontline during the fight to control the Table Mountain wildfire was Faith Bacela, a young firefighter with Working on Fire, a government funded job-creation initiative that recruits unemployed youth from marginalised communities and trains them to fight fires.

Faith - A South African firefighter - talks about wildfires - relating to climate change

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Faith Bacela, 25, firefighter


My name is Faith Bacela. I was born in 1995, 1st of August and I grew up in Cape Town. One of my hobbies which I do, I play football for a living, besides work. I work for a company called Working On Fire. At Working on Fire we protect environments and stop fires on the mountain, mostly field forest fires.

I started working with Working on Fire in 2016, November. So when we started here, they called us, then they explained how the process is going to go. Firstly they take us for a fitness test. If you pass the fitness test they take you for an interview. So from there they prepare you for like a week or two weeks. Then they take you to the main academy which is in a different province, which is in Nelspruit. So in Nelspruit we get trained there for like 25 days. So the training is mostly based on the having discipline and keeping your body fit enough for climbing mountains and we do some group marches to stay fit.

One of the main things for the job that we have to do is stop the fires from the mountains and damaging properties. Protecting animals as well. Fires are very very common because Cape Town is split in many ways, because Cape Town is a big province. So from Cape Town we do travel and go to other provinces, but mostly since Cape Town is a very big city, we are split in different bases, which if ever that current area has a fire that needs to be attended at a certain base nearby, then that base goes there. And then if ever they need any help, then they reach out to our base. So we connect all together and we work all together at stopping fires. The fires mostly become a problem in summer because the ground becomes very dry.


Our fire season starts round about December, then it goes further till January, till the end of April. That’s when the team starts getting more prepared for the fires because that when we’re entering the whole fire season where we know and we’re aware that we’ll be facing many fires in fire season. There are always fires, every year. I think there are less fires because most places that burnt previously for example in Knysna and George, they burnt a lot. Now that the ground has burnt, the crops and stuff can’t grow. A burnt area can’t burn again because its damaged, so the fires no longer interested in that damaged area.

I can tell you about our December month when it's mostly busy. Everybody's preparing for Christmas Eve and stuff. But us firefighters, we know we have to be here on standby for eight hours a day. And we just stay prepared with a water bottle, in your bag ready. And your fire gear is ready and tools sharpened and set in one place. And we just remain calm and wait for any fire call. So if any fire call reaches out, then we know we have to go attend immediately. We all grab our stuff and everything, every tool’s supposed to be inside the truck already, then we hop in our fire trucks and then we go out in the fire.

Sometimes it's exciting. And sometimes we are nervous, because fires are different, there are huge fires. There are fires that we can maintain within a few hours, I can say, then there are huge fires which could take maybe a month, us trying to stop the fire. So I would say the most fires that makes us nervous are the fires that mostly take long to be extinguished, because we don't know what could happen. So everything changes every day.

My role at the recent Table Mountain fire was, I as a SHE (safety) rep, I have to make sure that everybody has their fire gear on, their helmets on and their visors which are operating well. And everybody's wearing their goggles properly and their gloves well. Like they don't have any open spaces for when they are touching the tools and hurting themselves. So I follow after my crew leader, one of the supervisors, then we look for any danger spots, to go back to the team and alert them that please be aware of something like that and like that in such an area.


I do worry about my safety sometimes but one thing I love about the company is that they put our safety first. So, every time that we’re fighting fires, we always put our safety first. I’m doing the job, wishing in the future I can train more trainees that could be recruited in the company. And I see myself going further in the company, which, I guess I really love my job.

If we wouldn’t be doing this kind of kind of job then I think many houses would be damaged and the fires could damage many properties and many animals would be in danger as well. That would be very sad for the country. Sometimes the fires claim people's lives because some people if they see, or try to take their belongings inside the house, then the fire coming up very fast for them. Then the people get trapped inside sometimes and the fire then traps the people inside the houses so it’s be too late for them to go out. If the climate gets hotter in the future, I really think there’ll be more fires, even in winter because we mostly focus on our fire seasons which are around five months.

How it feels when you’re attending big fires; sometimes you feel nervous but along the day you become okay, because you're already used to it, that you must remain calm and maybe you’re just there with the team, you can hear birds, you can hear the smell of the trees and how the nature is, because we always working on top of the mountain, most of the time. When we’re dealing with the most dangerous fires, there are times that we get trapped by the thick smoke, by which we can’t get any way of moving through, or seeing anyone, so what we normally do is just try and pat on somebody’s back and you both go down with your visor closed. Then remain calm and just wait for the smoke to clear out for you to move.

However, if we are trapped in the fire, we know we have to open a three metre wide fire break. Then you remain in the middle because that area hasn’t been burnt yet, or you go to areas that have been burnt because the fire won’t go there because the areas already burnt. So, we just stay there till the fire clears out, then we start working again. Ordinary people could prevent fires by looking out for small children with boxes of matches or playing with them, watch out for candles nearby and make sure that they place them in the proper places to not make any damage from the small fires. And they could be aware of the broken glass that could make any reflections from the sun, that could also start the fire in the mountains. And for the camping people that leave fires on, they should make sure that they extinguish the fire with either the sand or water and they can leave the area clear. If not, the fire could start by spreading out, doing plenty damages on the area.

I would say people are now realising about climate change because even factories, they’re made better. Better ways, I'd say of doing their stuff because they make different stuff for the smokes to not affect the environment. And the people that used to damage the environment and the air pollution and stuff. They’re no longer doing it I’d say, because the people are preventing them from it. Many people become very surprised that I’m a female firefighter, and some of them become very shocked because they see I’m very young. They say, ‘This lady is very young to be a firefighter’ and they sometimes think of the risky job that I have applied for. They come to me which they ask questions like ‘how's the job?’ and ‘what are the dangers?’, ‘aren't you scared for when the fire is coming along?’.

There was a purpose at the job when they sent me for a training. I came back and which I have a lot of knowledge now of working along with the fires, different fires, which are mostly high fires and the low fires and stuff. So I’m well trained now. So I explain to them then they get to understand. Most men do ask me why I did apply for the job because they think the job is mostly made for male fire fighters, which they've got that wrong, because all females have the same powers as the males, as well. We’re all human beings in the end.

This project was funded by the European Union

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Leading medics and scientists request meeting with Taoiseach on TRIPS waiver in relation to Omicron fears

Over 400 leading doctors and scientists have issued a letter to An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD, requesting a meeting regarding vaccine inequity and the Omicron variant. A small representation from the Doctors for Vaccine Equity group, who are part of the People’s Vaccine Alliance in Ireland, and the Irish Society of Immunology presented the letter to the Taoiseach’s office today (09.12.2021).

This group of doctors and scientists is calling on the Government to work towards temporarily suspending patent rules on Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments in order to increase their  production and thereby , increase access in low- and middle-income countries. Signatories include Professor Kingston Mills, Professor Sam McConkey, Professor Cliona Ni Cheallaigh and Professor Luke O’Neill.

Speaking at the handover of the letter today, Dr Christine Kelly, founding member of Doctors for Vaccine Equity and an Infectious Diseases SpR and Honorary Clinical Fellow at UCD, said:

“Viral mutations occur when viruses replicate, meaning that the more virus is circulating in a population, the higher the risk of new mutations. Leaving large populations unvaccinated is increasing the risk of new variants, like we are seeing now with Omicron.”

Echoing Dr Kelly, Professor Cliona O’Farrelly, PhD, Professor of Comparative Immunology TCD, said: “It is becoming increasingly urgent to address the issue of vaccine inequity which is making sure these variants are a constant threat. This is why we are seeking a meeting with An Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD as a matter of urgency to ensure Ireland is working to support the TRIPS waiver which would allow greater access to vaccine technologies across the globe.

“Vaccine inequity is having a profound impact not just on people living in low-income countries who have little or no access to vaccines and vaccine technologies but is effecting everyone on the planet. Variants like Omicron will continue to threaten all health systems including our own here in Ireland, as we struggle to deal with increasing case numbers and our hospitals become too overwhelmed by Covid to cope with other sick patients.

“Vaccine inequity is a human rights issue, we have a moral obligation. We have the knowledge and strategies available to protect the lives of millions of people in low-income countries, particularly in the continent of Africa.

“We are urging the Government to adopt a global viewpoint in our handling of the pandemic – only though working to facilitate equitable access to vaccines will we be able to effectively bring the pandemic under control.”

Vaccines for just one in eight people delivered to Sub-Saharan Africa

Oxfam Ireland, as part of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, today (06.12.2021), marked the one-year anniversary of Northern Ireland grandmother Margaret Keenan becoming the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, by publishing data on the vaccine doses delivered to countries across the world.

The data provides a stark comparison on the access to vaccines for countries across the world, with Sub-Saharan Africa having received only enough doses to vaccinate 1 in 8 people.

On an individual country level, Democratic Republic of the Congo for example has received enough doses to vaccinate just one percent of the country’s population, in contrast to wealthy countries like Ireland where the entire population is almost fully vaccinated and booster campaigns are well underway.

The World Health Organisation recently highlighted that six times more booster shots are being administered daily around the globe than primary doses in low-income countries.

Vaccine Inequity Contributing to Emergence of Covid-19 Variants

On highlighting the new data, the development agency has reiterated its condemnation of the Irish Government and European Commission for their continued efforts to block the TRIPS Waiver on Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments at World Trade Organisation talks.

The temporary waiver would suspend patent rules on these products and enable increased production of Covid-19 vaccines, increasing access in low- and middle-income countries.  

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland CEO commented today: “Vaccine inequity has created the perfect breeding ground for new variants such as Omicron. This should be a wake-up call.

"We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past 21 months. With Norway becoming the latest country to support the TRIPS waiver just last week, we now need Ireland and the EU to chart a new path forward. They must step up and insist the pharmaceutical companies start sharing their science and technology with qualified manufacturers around the world, so we can vaccinate people in all countries and finally end this pandemic.

“It’s shameful that, according to the World Health Organisation, six times more booster shots are being administered daily around the globe than primary doses in low-income countries. We should not forget that the new Omicron variant was first discovered by scientists in countries which have been denied the right to produce their own vaccines.”

Oxfam Demands for Irish Government

Oxfam Ireland has also published a list of demands calling on the Irish Government and the European Commission to:

  • Ensure immediate approval of the waiving of intellectual property rules through a TRIPS waiver at the World Trade Organisation, to end the monopoly control of pharmaceutical firms over COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments. The World Trade Organization (WHO) General Council must urgently reconvene now, not next year, to approve this waiver.
  • Endorse and support the World Health Organisation (WHO) COVID Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) to facilitate the sharing of knowledge by pharmaceutical companies to increase vaccine production.
  • Declare all vaccines, including new versions of vaccines designed to combat the Omicron variant ‘global public goods’, and share vaccine recipes openly with producers worldwide via the World Health Organisation.

Oxfam Ireland along with the People’s Vaccine Alliance Ireland has also written to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment asking for a review of Ireland and the EU’s opposition to the TRIPS waiver, with input from international experts. The waiver comes under the trade function of this committee.

Mr. Clarken continued: “Business as usual has led to huge profits for pharmaceutical firms, but many people left unvaccinated, meaning that this virus continues to mutate. It is the definition of madness to keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome. We need to press reset.

 “Fighting to buy up limited supplies of hugely expensive vaccines to protect our own citizens whilst ignoring the rest of the world will only lead to more variants, more mutations, more restrictions and more lives lost.

“With the new threat of the Omicron variant, it is clear that we cannot just booster our way out of the pandemic while leaving much of the developing world behind. Unless all countries are vaccinated as soon as possible, we could see wave after wave of variants.

“What is the point in developing new vaccines in 100 days if they are then only sold in limited amounts to the highest bidder, once again leaving poor nations at the back of the queue?”

The People’s Vaccine Alliance of which Oxfam is a co-founder has created a virtual memorial wall will be revealed at www.peoplesvaccine.org/memorial-wall on Wednesday, 8th December, marking a year since the first vaccine was administered.

Failure to support TRIPS waiver could “surrender the world to a prolonged pandemic”


The People’s Vaccine Alliance Ireland co-founded by Oxfam Ireland today accused Ireland and the EU of supporting a “a rich country stitch-up” at ongoing World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks that will decide the future of Covid-19 vaccine production. The EU, supported by Ireland, are continuing to block the demands of South Africa, India and over 100 other nations to temporarily waive intellectual property rules for Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments.

Just last week, the South African President reiterated this call ahead of the WTO meeting. The waiver, which would significantly increase production of Covid-19 vaccines and treatments across the world was discussed at the WTO TRIPS Council on this week.

To highlight Ireland and EU’s continued stance against vaccine equity, campaigners from Oxfam Ireland along with Amnesty International Ireland, Trocaire, Doctors for Vaccine Equity, ICCL, Christian Aid and the Access to Medicines Ireland group, as part of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, staged a demonstration at Leinster House, today.


Speaking today about the ongoing WTO talks, CEO of Oxfam Ireland Jim Clarken said: “The heavily mutated new Omicron variant, first identified in South Africa last week, is clear evidence that the only way to end the pandemic is to vaccinate the whole world. The global vaccine inequity created by rich countries and western pharmaceutical companies has helped to enable the conditions necessary for this kind of deadly mutation to thrive.

“Rather than granting developing countries manufacturing rights and ensuring people get vaccinated to cut-off new variants, the People’s Vaccine Alliance in Ireland says the best response they can muster is to put up walls to a variant they have allowed to develop.”

At current rates, just 8% of people in low-income countries will have received at least one dose by the end of this year. This compares to 76% for high-income countries.

In Ireland, more than 400 leading scientists and medical professionals, including Prof Kingston Mills, Prof Sam McConkey and Prof Luke O’Neill, have signed a public statement urging the Irish Government to support the generic production of Covid-19 vaccines and treatments to address global vaccine inequity. The call has been coordinated by People’s Vaccine Alliance in Ireland with Oxfam Ireland a leading member.


Mr Clarken continued: “The Covid-19 pandemic has killed at least five million people and impoverished hundreds of millions more. Without access to Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, many more will die in low- and middle-income countries purely to ensure the profits of pharmaceutical companies.

“Intellectual property rules have created an artificial scarcity of vaccines and treatments, leading to low vaccine coverage in developing countries. And that has helped to create the ideal conditions for the emergence of dangerous new variants that could put everyone, everywhere at risk once again. This is not just an ethical debate. As well as being the right thing to do, ensuring global access for all to vaccines, life-saving therapeutics, diagnostics and other medical tools is the only way to end the pandemic. Without generic vaccine production, we will continue to see variants emerge, which may be vaccine resistant and place us all at risk.”

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