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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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The women on the front lines of the Hunger Virus

Photo: Islam Mardini/ Oxfam

9 July 2021

Today, Oxfam published a new report warning that as many as 11 people are likely dying of hunger and malnutrition every minute, outpacing the current global death rate of Covid-19 of approximately seven people per minute.

The report, entitled The Hunger Virus Multiplies, reveals that conflict remains the main cause of hunger since the pandemic, pushing over half a million people into famine-like conditions and marking a six-fold increase since last year.

Conflict combined with the climate crisis and the Covid-related economic crisis has led to 155 million people living in crisis levels of food insecurity or worse. This is 20 million more than last year.

On top of that, mass unemployment and disrupted food production have led to a 40 percent jump in global food prices - the highest increase in more than 10 years.

Today, we also meet some of the women worst affected by this worsening Hunger Virus.

Photo: Mahamat Ibrahim Saleh/Oxfam
Photo: Islam Mardini/ Oxfam
Photo: Islam Mardini/Oxfam
Photo: Alokpa Kodjovi/Oxfam
Photo: Alokpa Kodjovi/Oxfam
Photo: Adrienne Surprenant/Oxfam
Photo: Rolando Duarte/Oxfam
Photo: Tagaza Djibo/Oxfam
Photo: Dominic Kango Amos/Oxfam
Photo: Lizwe Chitanganya/Oxfam
Photo: Cissé Amadou/Oxfam
Photo: Serawit Atnafu/Oxfam
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Irish INGOs call on UN Security Council to vote to keep vital humanitarian aid border crossing between north-west Syria and Turkey open

4 July 2021

A group of Irish humanitarian aid organisations are collectively calling on members of the United Nations Security Council, of which Ireland is a temporary member, to approve the reauthorisation of a vital border crossing which allows aid between Turkey and conflict affected north-west Syria.

The NGOs warn that over three million people in Syria will be left without critical life-saving humanitarian assistance if consensus, which enables aid to flow through the only remaining border crossing between Turkey and north-west Syria at Bab al Hawa, is not secured.  UN Security Council members have until July 10th to unanimously agree to renew the Syria Cross-Border Resolution.

The Bab al Hawa crossing allows humanitarian aid to be delivered to a region where 81 percent of the population, half of whom are children, are in need of support.

Concern Worldwide, GOAL, Trocaire, Oxfam Ireland and World Vision are appealing to the Security Council to approve the reauthorisation of the crossing for at least another 12 months. In addition to the Bab al Hawa border crossing, they are also calling for the re-opening of the Al Yarubiyah and Bab al Salam crossings, which have been closed over the last year and a half.

In a joint statement the NGOS say: “If the last remaining border crossing is closed off after July 10th the work of the entire humanitarian community to provide timely life-saving assistance, could be in jeopardy and the consequences will be disastrous. This cannot be allowed to happen. Ireland, with Norway, has specific responsibility at the UN Security Council to convene consensus on the text of the resolution that protects cross-border aid.”

The statement also urges the Security Council to go further to expand means for the delivery of aid by urgently reinstating the Bab al Salam and Al Yarubiyah crossings in the resolution.

The renewal of the Syria Cross-Border Resolution is the only way the Bab al Hawa crossing can remain open.

The NGO group warn that a failure to do so would result in a looming humanitarian catastrophe, with food aid supplies, Covid-19 vaccines, and critical medical supplies unable to be delivered.

It said: “The number of people in need in Syria is currently at its highest ever level, growing 20 percent in the last year alone. The ongoing economic crisis in the region coupled with the Covid-19 pandemic has led to record levels of food insecurity and economic hardship. Covid-19 continues to spread at an alarming rate while the healthcare infrastructure, decimated by years of conflict, remains woefully inadequate to respond.

“Ten years on in Syria, the need for humanitarian assistance has never been greater for 22 million civilians caught up in this horrific conflict. Some 80 percent of the population now live below the poverty line and 9.3 million people are food insecure. Access is critical to ensure that all humanitarian agencies can continue to provide life-saving assistance.”

In March the group raised their concerns about the closure of the border crossing in a joint submission to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence.

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITOR:

Case studies and quotes from children living in North West Syria are available on request.

Spokespeople available:

Bríd Kennedy, Middle East Regional Director, Concern Worldwide

Lorraine Marriott, Regional Director for the Middle East, GOAL

Colm Byrne, Humanitarian Manager, Oxfam Ireland

Niall O Keeffe, Head of Portfolio, FCAS, Trócaire

Maurice Sadlier, Programmes & Policy Director, World Vision Ireland

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People’s Vaccine Alliance Ireland – Official Launch

  • Irish organisations, health practitioners, trade unions, and activists unite for a People’s Vaccine  
  • People’s Vaccine coalition call on Irish government to stand for fairness, equality and global health 

Updated 5th July 2021

What: Official launch of the People’s Vaccine Alliance Ireland

When: 13:00 – 14:00 (Irish Summer Time), July 8, 2021 

Where: Virtual event hosted on Zoom. RSVP here

Confirmed speakers:

  • Dr Ciara Conlan, Co-Founder of Access to Medicines Ireland 
  • Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme
  • Isabel Simpson, Executive Director, Médecins Sans Frontières Ireland  
  • Majo Rivas, Paraguayan-Irish People's Vaccine activist  
  • Mustaqeem De Gama, South African Permanent Mission to the WTO in relation to the TRIPS waiver
  • Senator Alice-Mary Higgins, Irish Independent Politician
  • Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS

Further information 

This event marks the launch of a national campaign by the People’s Vaccine Alliance Ireland—a coalition of Irish organisations, health practitioners, trade unions and activists who have come together to call on the Irish government to take a stand for equality and global health. 

The fairest and most effective way to end the Covid-19 pandemic is to ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments. Yet, pharmaceutical company monopolies could leave countries in the global south waiting until 2023 for widespread vaccination. This must change, so they too can protect their citizens. 

Current vaccine inequity can be addressed by temporarily waiving intellectual property rights to vaccines by supporting the TRIPS waiver at the World Trade Organisation and by encouraging pharmaceutical companies to share their know-how, so that the manufacture of vaccines can be scaled up to the meet the global need. This is the morally right thing to do, but in addition, restricting vaccine supply to protect profits during the pandemic, means all populations remain at further risk of health and economic shocks and crises. 

Join us to discuss the obstacles standing in the way of global vaccine access on Thursday 8, July from 13:00, when we will hear from Irish and international speakers campaigning for vaccine equity worldwide.

For more information, please visit http://peoplesvaccine.ie

Register to attend this event launch: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_HxYiidujSHWAKkzPLUkLfw

ENDS

Contact 

Caroline Reid | Oxfam Ireland | 087 912 3165 

Jo-Ann Ward | ActionAid Ireland | 087 768 6289

Notes to the Editor

The People’s Vaccine Alliance Ireland is coordinated by: Access to Medicines Ireland, Action Aid Ireland, Amnesty International Ireland, AMRI, Comhlamh, Christian Aid Ireland, GOAL, Friends of the Earth Ireland, ICCL, Irish General Practice Nurses Educational Association, Irish Global Health Network, Oxfam Ireland, Plan International Ireland and Trócaire. 

The people’s Vaccine Alliance Ireland’s Demands:

  1. Ireland must use its voice within the EU to support the TRIPS waiver - Call on governments to temporarily suspend intellectual property rights at the World Trade Organisation for Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostics. This will help break Big Pharma monopolies and increase supplies so there are enough doses for everyone, everywhere. For more info, click here and here. 
  2. Ireland must endorse the World Health Organisation (WHO) COVID Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) to facilitate the sharing of know-how by Pharmaceutical companies to increase vaccine production.

Speaker bios:

Dr Ciara Conlan is one of the co-founders of Access to Medicines Ireland (AMI). AMI together with the other members of the People’s Vaccine Alliance Ireland have been leading voices calling for global COVID-19 vaccine equity. Ciara is a medical doctor currently working in virology and COVID- 19 surveillance. She holds a further diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Ciara has first-hand experience working on the COVID-19 wards in Ireland and has also spent time working in rural Malawi. She is interested in the intersection between social exclusion and infectious diseases, and in access to medicine problems caused by the current commercial model of drug development.

Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme has been at the forefront of managing acute risks to global health for nearly 25 years. He served as Assistant Director-General for Emergency Preparedness and Response in WHO's Health Emergencies Programme from 2017 to 2019. Dr Ryan first joined WHO in 1996, with the newly established unit to respond to emerging and epidemic disease threats. He has worked in conflict affected countries and led many responses to high impact epidemics. He completed medical training at the National University of Ireland, Galway, a Master’s in Public Health at University College Dublin, and specialist training in communicable disease control at the Health Protection Agency in London and the European Programme for Intervention Epidemiology Training.

Isabel Simpson has a professional background in nursing and over 25 years in humanitarian work having worked in Bosnia, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Somaliland, Iraq, North East India. As Executive Director of MSF Ireland, Isabel leads MSF’s work in Ireland – providing staff to support emergencies and MSF’s projects globally, raising funds for MSF’s operations and speaking out to highlight humanitarian crises. Isabel’s work includes bringing attention to equitable access to medicines across the world.

Majo Rivas is Paraguayan-Irish and lives in Cork. She has worked in advocacy in sexual and reproductive rights, migrant rights and disability rights. Almost all of her immediate family (whom she misses very much) is in Paraguay, so vaccine inequality is particularly close to home.

Mustaqeem De Gama is currently a Counsellor at the South African Mission in Geneva and is accredited to the WTO and UN. He has been a determined advocate, on behalf of the South African Government, for adoption of the TRIPS waiver at the WTO. He previously worked at the Department of Trade and Industry in South Africa where he headed the International Trade and Investment Directorate.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins is a progressive, independent Senator with a strong commitment to equality, the environment and human rights. Senator Higgins was re-elected to Seanad Éireann (NUI Panel) in March 2020 where she is leader of the Civil Engagement Group, a group of Senators who each have backgrounds in civil society. Alice-Mary has held a number of other policy and advocacy roles in Irish civil society organisations and has been active in many public campaigns and referenda. 

Winnie Byanyima is the Executive Director of UNAIDS and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. A passionate and longstanding champion of social justice and gender equality, Ms. Byanyima leads the United Nations efforts to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. Ms. Byanyima believes that health care is a human right and has been an early champion of a People’s Vaccine against the coronavirus that is available and free of charge to everyone, everywhere.

Before joining UNAIDS, Ms. Byanyima served as the Executive Director of Oxfam  International, a confederation of 20 civil society organisations working in more than 90 countries worldwide, empowering people to create a future that is secure, just, and free from poverty.

Ms. Byanyima was elected for three terms and served eleven years in the Parliament of her country, Uganda. She led Uganda's first parliamentary women’s caucus, championing ground-breaking gender equality provisions in the county's 1995 post-conflict constitution. Ms. Byanyima led the establishment of the African Union Commission’s Directorate of Gender and Development and also served as Director of Gender and Development at UNDP. She founded the Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE), an influential Ugandan NGO, and has been deeply involved in building global and African coalitions on social justice issues. A global leader on inequality, Ms. Byanyima has co-chaired the World Economic Forum and served on the World Bank’s Advisory Council on Gender and Development, ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work and the Global Commission on Adaptation.

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