Press Releases

Oxfam Reaction to Announced US Support of WTO TRIPS Waiver On Covid Vaccines

5 May 2021

In response to today’s announcement that the US Trade Representative is supporting waiving intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines, Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said:

“It’s now time for Ireland and the EU to follow the US in this life saving decision and end their opposition to the TRIPS waiver and work together to deliver urgently needed vaccines to the world.

“Over the past year, nurses, doctors, Nobel Laureates, former heads of state, artists, economists, public health activists and more than two million people from around the world have rallied together to call on governments to reassert moral and public leadership on the world stage. Today President Biden answered that call.

“The horrific situation in India is a warning to all of us that if we don’t move urgently to share the vaccine technology and scale up manufacturing so everyone, everywhere can have access to these lifesaving vaccines, we will never get the upper hand on Covid anywhere.”

Abby Maxman, Oxfam America’s President and CEO, made the following statement in response to today's news:

“President Biden and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai have recognised that Pharma’s ‘business as usual’ is killing us. In this moment of crisis, we applaud their willingness to pursue a new path that prioritises public health over private profits.

“Today, we celebrate the momentous decision by President Biden and his administration to engage with the rest of the world to pull down all barriers standing in the way of everyone everywhere getting access to Covid vaccines.

“This is a testament to the widespread public movement calling for an end to vaccine monopolies. It is also a testament to an administration that listens and is willing to do whatever it takes to defeat Covid-19.

“We are at a crucial inflexion point in the fight against the coronavirus, yet we have remained essentially at the mercy of a handful of giant pharmaceutical corporations that have monopoly control over the life-saving technologies we all need. This may now begin to change.

“Loosening the monopoly grip that pharmaceutical companies have on these life-saving vaccines is an essential step toward increased manufacturing that would lead to worldwide immunisation, helping the US and everyone else. We will now look to the White House for leadership in a strong WTO outcome, in urgently insisting on the transfer of technologies through the World Health Organisation Covid-19 Technology Access pool, and in investing strategically to build up regional vaccine hubs to defeat this and future pandemics."

ENDS


Contact
Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org| 087 912 3165

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Oxfam responds to deadly Covid-19 wave in India

Oxfam Media Advisory: 29 April 2021

 

Spokespeople available for interview via Skype or phone 

 

Oxfam India has deployed teams to five of the worst-hit states in India where a second wave of coronavirus is sweeping the country. The international organisation is urgently appealing for $2 million to fund its emergency response to the crisis.  

Teams have already started providing face masks, hand sanitiser and other protective equipment in parts of Maharashtra following a request from state health authorities. Distribution of PPE to 500 frontline health workers will begin in Maharashtra, Delhi, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in the coming days. 

Oxfam India is procuring oxygen tanks, beds, digital thermometers, and other medical equipment to help government hospitals where supplies are desperately low. They are also preparing to provide food rations and cash support to stranded migrant workers and other marginalised groups, and handwashing stations in public spaces.  

Pankaj Anand, Humanitarian and Programmes Director, said: “The surge in coronavirus cases has caught the country off guard. We are seeing hundreds of thousands of new cases every day and many more deaths. The health infrastructure in India is bursting at the seams and there are widespread reports of shortages of oxygen and other medical supplies in large cities.” 

Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India, said: "People are literally dying on the streets or in car parks or in their homes. There is no-one I think in India who doesn’t know of friends or family or colleagues who have not had Covid. We are a country that is united in fearful expectation.

“Hospitals and health centres are begging for equipment and medicines and oxygen. The prices of medicines and oxygen has skyrocketed. This is a situation so bad, in my memory it is almost beyond my conception.

“Our immediate priority is to supply hospitals and health workers with medical equipment and PPE so they can continue treating those who are sick. But to avoid a worse humanitarian disaster it is vital we stop the spread and so we are also preparing handwashing stations and awareness campaigns to help people stay safe. We are particularly concerned about migrant workers and other marginalised groups who may be stranded in the open and will be hit hardest by lockdowns and the economic shock. Oxfam India is preparing to provide food rations and cash assistance to help the most vulnerable people to survive the coming weeks.

"Oxfam has also been asked to source electric incinerators. We will provide what we can and what is urgently needed – but it is heart-breaking to begin to understand that equipment to cope with the dead is as scarce and needed now as equipment that would help the living.

"India is the 'pharmacy of the world' and yet it is gasping for breath. This is wrong. India needs the world’s help now – with international aid and resources and assistance – but it needs the freedom too to unleash its own pharmaceutical might to produce Covid vaccines and not be bound by the patents and licenses and deals that it has had to make with the big pharmaceutical companies.

To arrange an interview, please contact:  

Oxfam Ireland

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | 087 912 3165

Joannne O' Connor | irl-media@oxfam.org | 083 198 1869

Oxfam India

Tejas Patel | tejas@oxfamindia.org | +91 9999105600 

Savvy Soumya Misra | savvy@oxfamindia.org | +91 98187 79535

END

Notes to editors: 

  • Oxfam India will begin supplying PPE to 500 frontline health workers in five states in the coming days. It is also procuring oxygen tanks and masks, beds, digital thermometers and other medical equipment to help supply government hospitals, as well as 900 emergency food rations to support the most marginalised groups. Oxfam India and its partners are monitoring the situation in 16 states across India. 
  • Since the first outbreak of Covid-19 last year, Oxfam India has been working to provide food, PPE, safety kits, cash assistance and livelihoods training across 15 states (Assam, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Telangana). Oxfam India is committed to reaching the most vulnerable and marginalised groups including Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims and women and girls. 
  • The sudden disruption caused by lockdowns has had a severe impact on daily wage labourers, migrants and informal workers who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. The sudden spike in cases Covid-19 in states like Gujarat, Maharashtra and Delhi has resulted in many migrant workers becoming stranded in railway stations, bus terminals or at their places of work. Oxfam’s field teams report that these groups, who are often excluded from government support, need food and handwashing facilities to reduce their chances of becoming infected.  
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Women’s lost income in 2020 totalled combined wealth of 98 countries

  • Citizen’s Assembly recommendations on gender equality must be a heart of Covid-recovery plans 
  • Millions more women at risk of extreme poverty in 2021 

 29 April 2021

The Covid-19 crisis cost women around the world at least $800 billion in lost income in 2020, equivalent to more than the combined GDP of 98 countries – dealing a striking blow to recent gains for women in the workforce, said Oxfam today. 

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: "Economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic is having a harsher impact on women, who are disproportionately represented in sectors offering low wages, few benefits and the least secure jobs. 

“This conservative estimate doesn’t even include wages lost by the millions of women working across the world in the informal economy —domestic workers, market vendors and garment workers— who have been sent home or whose hours and wages have been drastically cut.”

Globally, women are overrepresented in low-paid, precarious sectors, such as retail, tourism, food and textile services, that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. Women also make up a majority of the world’s health and social care workforce. In the EU alone, 76 percent of healthcare workers are women —essential but often poorly paid jobs that put them at greater risk from Covid-19.

Women have also been more likely than men to drop out of the workforce or reduce their hours during the pandemic, largely due to care responsibilities. The Covid-19 crisis has shown yet again that it is the care economy, a ‘hidden engine’, that keeps the wheels of our economies, businesses and societies turning.  

Clarken went on to say: “Even before the virus struck, the responsibility for caring in Ireland was deeply gendered and severely unbalanced. Last year, Oxfam Ireland estimated that, women’s unpaid care work contributes at least €24 billion to the Irish economy every year - the equivalent of 12.3 percent of the entire annual economy.

“For women in every country on every continent, along with losing income, the demands of unpaid care work have rapidly increased. As care needs spiked during the pandemic, women —the shock absorbers of our societies— have stepped in to fill the gap, an expectation so often imposed by sexist social norms.” 

The effects of these dramatic changes will be unevenly felt for years to come. An additional 47 million women worldwide are expected to fall into extreme poverty in 2021, while the World Economic Forum predict that closing the global gender gap has increased by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years due to negative outcomes for women in 2020.

Clarken concluded: “As we move from emergency measures to long-term recovery, our government must seize this opportunity to build a more equal, inclusive economy for everyone living in Ireland. Our Citizens Assembly has laid out what needs to be done for gender equality – offering concrete actions across politics and leadership, caregiving and childcare, domestic, sexual and gender based violence, pay and the workplace, social protection, as well reforming the constitution.

“A fair and sustainable economic recovery is one that supports women’s employment and unpaid care work, as recovery from Covid-19 is impossible without women recovering.”

END

Contact

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org

Notes to editors 

  1. Despite Ireland’s work towards achieving gender equality in recent years, the gender pay gap remains an issue, and female employment rates are slightly lower than the European average – something that should be considered against the backdrop of Ireland’s relatively low level of state funding for subsidised childcare and the lack of investment in childcare infrastructure. 
  2. Childcare costs in Ireland are among the highest in the EU – young families can pay the price of a second monthly rent or mortgage for crèches, which can limit or impede a woman’s choice to return to work or pursue employment in certain fields or professions. 
  3. In addition, women in Ireland are over-represented in the low paid sector, can be working reduced hours due to care responsibilities and are also more likely to have to leave paid employment to fulfil unpaid care work of children or elderly dependents. This in turn results in reduced benefits and pension contributions – creating a pension gap - possibly extending cycles of financial insecurity or poverty into retirement age.
     
  • Women’s total income loss is an estimate derived from the change in the number of women working between the years 2019 and 2020, as captured in the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) indicator: Employment by sex and age -- ILO modelled estimates, Nov. 2020 (thousands) — Annual. To achieve our income loss figure, Oxfam first estimated the average income among women globally and then multiplied this figure by the number of women working in 2019 and 2020. The average income figure comes from the International Labour Organization’s indicator: Mean nominal monthly earnings of employees by sex and economic activity for the year 2019. The ILO's monthly earnings data includes fifty countries representing every region of the world. The monthly averages are multiplied by twelve to estimate an annual earnings figure. We keep women’s annual average income constant between 2019 and 2020 (2019 is the last year there is data available). The calculation is an estimate and is susceptible to data limitations. For example, using average income among women globally diminishes the extent of economic inequality among women. Further, regarding data describing employment by sex, the ILO cautions: Imputed observations are not based on national data, are subject to high uncertainty and should not be used for country comparisons or rankings. 
  • Although some governments have taken positive measures to address women’s economic and social security, including the infusion of $39 billion by the Biden administration into the childcare sector and new legislation in Argentina that offers flexible work schedules to those caring for children or the disabled, the response remains grossly insufficient. Only 11 countries have introduced shorter or flexible work arrangements for workers with care responsibilities, while 36 have strengthened family and paid sick leave for parents and caregivers.
  • Oxfam Ireland’s submission to the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Quality included recommendations on: 
  1. Gender responsive budgeting 
  2. Gender pay gap 
  3. Gender Equality in leadership and participation 
  4. Gender equality in the care economy 
  5. Gender equality in development and aid 

You can read their full submission here: https://www.oxfamireland.org/sites/default/files/Oxfam%20Ireland_CA%20Submission_Gender%20Eqaulity_March2020_Final.pdf  

 

 

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Oxfam Reactive: Minister Simon Coveney’s comments on vaccine inequality

27 April 2021

In response to Minister Simon Coveney’s comments on vaccine inequality, Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said:

"We welcome Minister Coveney’s comments about the need to ensure that protection of vaccine patents and intellectual property rights don’t undermine efforts to address the Covid-19 pandemic globally. We echo the Minister’s call for vaccine makers to share manufacturing know how and capacity more widely around the world. The proposal for a TRIPS waiver at the WTO is a suitable mechanism to help achieve this.

"On Friday, the EU has an opportunity to ensure intellectual property rights are not protected above human life. We call on Ireland to end its support of the EU’s position and engage with fellow member states to reverse the EU's continued opposition to this essential intervention - that is supported by over 100 low-and middle-income countries.

"This is an opportunity for Ireland to show leadership on the world stage in the interest of the world’s most vulnerable people. Ireland should, with other EU countries, follow Belgium’s example who just this week came out in support of the TRIPS waiver.

"Leaving low-income countries, some of which are the hardest hit by resurging waves of the virus, dependant on handouts and leftovers will not remedy the pandemic. We have the tools to overcome Covid-19 – now let's share them. This is after all a global health emergency."

END

Contact

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | 087 912 3165

Notes

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Irish politicians across political spectrum call on EU to support TRIPS Waiver

  • Over 300 MEPs and MPs Join Chorus of Voices Calling for a TRIPS Waiver at the WTO
  • TRIPS waiver - powerful and effective way governments can demonstrate commitment to global cooperation

27 April 2021

Ahead of the next TRIPS Council meeting at the WTO this Friday, Irish politicians from nearly every political party, including Independents and Senators, have signed a joint appeal, alongside hundreds of MEPs and members of national Parliaments across the EU, expressing their unequivocal support for the TRIPS waiver.

Their call joins 175 Nobel laureates and former Heads of State and Governments, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), scientists, trade unions, NGOs and the general public as the European Commission and Member States, including Ireland, continue to oppose the patent waiver, which would help increase global production and availability of Covid-19 vaccines and related equipment globally.

Closer to home, organisations campaigning for a People’s Vaccine have sent letters to the Committee on EU Affairs and the Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment asking them to review Ireland’s support of the EU’s opposition to the TRIPS waiver. A letter will also be sent to Minister Coveney this week to ask the Irish Government to implement the recommendations of the report of the Joint Committee of Foreign Affairs and Defence on the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines to developing countries. 

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “Momentum behind the call for support of the TRIPS waiver is growing significantly. It is fantastic to see so many of our own politicians now publicly adding their names in support of this life saving measure that could move us towards vaccine equity.

“Just last week, in response to queries from Senator Alice-Mary Higgins, Deputy Robert Troy, Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, said that there is ‘an important opportunity for Ireland to be a leader in ensuring the safe and equitable distribution of vaccines to all’.

“And he is correct. Supporting the TRIPS waiver would be among the most powerful and effective available ways for governments to demonstrate their commitment to global cooperation and increase global access to vaccines.

“We call on Ireland to end its opposition to the TRIPS waiver and work to persuade their EU colleagues to support this proposal from over 100 countries at the WTO meeting this Friday.

"Reports from India this week indicate that they are losing one life every four minutes as the country grapples under a new wave of the virus. These are the types of headlines we can avoid moving forward – but only if there is a united response to ending the pandemic. 

“If the situation remains unchanged, the interests and profits of the few will determine the fate of the many.

“It is not too late for Ireland, or the European Commission and EU governments, to change course and finally listen to leading experts, elected representatives and the people who hold the most power – their voting public."

END

Contact

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org

Notes to the Editor

This press release is the result of a coordinated effort led by Health Action International (HAI) and is endorsed by a further group of 24 European and International civil society organisations:

  • Irish politicians who signed the appeal: John Brady (SF), Matt Carthy (SF), Joan Collins (IND), Gerard P Craughwell (IND), David Cullinane (SF), Mairéad Farrell (SF), Gary Gannon (SD), Seán Haughey (FF), Alice-Mary Higgins (IND), Neasa Hourigan (GP), Vincent P. Martin (GP), Paul Murphy (PBP), Cian O'Callaghan (SD), Marc Ó Cathasaigh (GP). 
  • For supporting quotes from MEPs and endorsing organisations, see here
  • The joint appeal (signed by 388 MPs and MEPs) can be found here.
  • For questions and further information about the joint appeal, please contact Jaume Vidal (jaume@haiweb.org) and Alex Lawrence (alex@haiweb.org
     
  • In October 2020, South Africa and India submitted a proposal at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to temporarily waive certain intellectual property (IP) rights under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) until widespread vaccination is in place globally. Since then, and despite the growing support for the initiative, the discussions have not gone beyond the exchange of clarifications and additional explanations. This is due to the opposition of a handful of countries, most notably the EU and its Member States, the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan, among others. 
  • It is evident that there are insufficient vaccine doses because of limited manufacturing capabilities and other challenges to the supply chain. Traditional voluntary mechanisms will not and cannot deliver the scale-up of production and technology transfer needed to respond to this challenge. Initiatives like the COVAX facility depend heavily on pledges and commitments that have yet to materialise, and in any case would be insufficient to provide the level of coverage needed to bring a timely end to the pandemic. As the Director General of the World Health Organisation has said, we face the risk of a “catastrophic moral failure”.

  

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