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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."

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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."

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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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A shot at recovery

Measuring corporate commitments towards a free, fair, and accessible COVID-19 vaccine

Publication date: 22nd April

Covid-19 anywhere is Covid-19 everywhere. That’s why we need a People’s Vaccine: patent-free, mass produced, distributed fairly, and made available free of charge, to every individual, rich and poor alike, around the world. To protect everyone, everywhere, corporations must commit to openly sharing their vaccine technology to enable billions of doses to be made as soon as possible at the lowest possible price.

Amidst troubling opacity, especially on purchasing agreements and vaccine prices, we found that the commitments made by the five leading US-funded vaccine developers highlighted in this brief, from our colleagues in Oxfam America, are far from what is needed. To address this unprecedented global crisis, we need corporations and governments to do everything in their power to deliver a free, fair and accessible Covid-19 vaccine – a People’s Vaccine.

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And we’re back – Oxfam Ireland launch volunteer appeal ahead of Northern Ireland shops reopening

  • Bag up you pre-loved items for donation – Oxfam Ireland  
  • Support people and planet by shopping at Oxfam  

26 April

This Friday, 30th April, Oxfam shops across Northern Ireland will reopen for business (and donations!) but the top priority for the organisation is new volunteers to lend a hand in their network of shops across Northern Ireland.  

Volunteers play a vital role in Oxfam’s work globally, while also providing a solution to throwaway fashion by saving items from ending up in landfills here at home. By giving a little of their time and creativity, each one makes a huge difference in support of some of the most at-risk communities in the world, while helping our planet along the way.

Trevor Anderson, Director of Trading with Oxfam Ireland, said: "As our shop teams swing back into action in preparation for their long-awaited reopening, we have launched an appeal across Northern Ireland for volunteers to join our teams. 

“I would encourage anyone interested in lending some time to make an application through our online portal - people can give as little or as much time as they like, and we provide full training. Oxfam shops are a hive of activity with plenty of opportunities to meet new people, learn new skills, and of course, have lots of fun.” 

At the end of December, Oxfam shops in Northern Ireland, along with many other local businesses closed their doors for the third time since the pandemic was declared – to their protect staff, volunteers, donors and customers and play their part in Northern Ireland’s response to Covid-19.

Anderson continued: “The loss of income during this period dealt a blow as the income our shops generate is central to supporting Oxfam's global work to beat poverty and fight inequality. However, we have amazing supporters who have helped us bounce back after each lockdown by shopping and donating to their local Oxfam shop, and we expect this time to be no different. 

“Our shop Managers are in store from Friday, 23 April, and will be accepting donations from members of the public.  We would also ask people to work with us as we reopen, to ensure everyone has a safe and positive experience when visiting our shops.

"We're really looking forward to seeing all of our staff and volunteers in store again, doing what they do best, and we're so excited to welcome our customers and donors back.

"It is because of the commitment and enthusiasm of our staff, volunteers, and supporters that Oxfam can change lives and work toward building a fairer and more sustainable world for everyone.”

Apply to volunteer with your local Oxfam shop here: https://www.oxfamireland.org/getinvolved/volunteer/apply

Find your nearest Oxfam Ireland shop here: https://www.oxfamireland.org/shop/oxfam-shops

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Contact

Caroline Reid | +353 87 912 3165 | caroline.reid@oxfam.org
 

Notes to the Editor

Safety measures Oxfam Ireland Shops will be taking:

  • All shops have a suite of PPE: sneeze screens in front of the tills, social distancing measures and messaging throughout the shop and a sanitation station at the entrance. 
  • Staff and volunteers will wear masks and they will have an infrared thermometer in each shop to ensure regular check-ups - as well plenty of handwashing - throughout the day. 
  • We do expect a surge in donations and have put guidelines and processes in place to manage this eventuality.  
  • As part of the overall ‘Covid Compliant Reopening Plan’ which focuses on the Health & Safety of our Staff, Volunteers, Customers and Donors we will be following the up to date government guidelines regarding the quarantining of donations 
  • All shops have had a risk assessment carried out and all staff and volunteers will be taken through Covid-19 Compliant Health & Safety training before they start their shift. 
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Big Pharma rewards shareholders with $26 billion amid vaccine apartheid

22 April 2021

As of today, there have been more than 144.5 million cases of Covid-19 recorded worldwide. By tomorrow, that number will have risen again.

But the pandemic has led to other figures increasing too, namely the bank balance of Big Pharma’s top executives and shareholders.

Over the past 12 months, the People’s Vaccine Alliance calculates that Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca have paid out $26 billion in dividends and stock buybacks to their shareholders – enough to pay to vaccinate at least 1.3bn people. To help you visualise that number – that equates to the entire population of Africa.

While the global economy remains frozen due to the slow and uneven vaccine rollout, the soaring shares of vaccine makers has created a new wave of billionaires. The founder of BioNTech, Ugur Sahin, is now worth $5.9. billion and Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel $5.2 billion.

According to regulatory filings, Bancel has cashed out more than $142 million in Moderna stock since the pandemic began. Many other investors have also become billionaires in the last few months, while the International Chamber of Commerce projects a worst-case GDP loss of $9 trillion due to global vaccine inequity.

Protests are expected outside shareholders meetings today in the UK and US as investors inside present resolutions to expand vaccine access. There is a growing backlash against the de facto privatisation of successful Covid-19 vaccines and pressure on the pharmaceutical companies to share the technology and know-how with qualified vaccine producers across the world.

“This is a public health emergency, not a private profit opportunity,” said Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland. “We should not be letting corporations decide who lives and who dies while boosting their profits. We need a people’s vaccine, not a profit vaccine.

Vaccine apartheid is not a natural phenomenon but the result of governments stepping back and allowing corporations to call the shots. Instead of creating new vaccine billionaires we need to be vaccinating billions in developing countries. It is appalling that Big Pharma is making huge pay-outs to wealthy shareholders in the face of this global health emergency.

While one in four citizens of rich nations have had a vaccine, just one in 500 people in poorer countries have done so, meaning the death toll continues to climb as the virus remains out of control. Epidemiologists are predicting we have less than a year before mutations could render the current vaccines ineffective.

One of the reasons Pharma companies have been able to generate such large profits is because of intellectual property rules that restrict production to a handful of companies.

Last week, 175 former heads of state and Nobel Prize winners, including former president Mary Robinson, Francois Hollande and Joseph Stiglitz wrote to US President Joe Biden to support the temporary waiving of intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to enable the rapid scale-up of vaccine production across the world.

They join the 1.5 million people in the US and other nations who have signalled their support for a People’s Vaccine.

More than 100 low- and middle-income nations, led by India and South Africa, are calling at the World Trade Organisation for a waiver of intellectual property protections on Covid-19 products during the pandemic, a move so far opposed by the US, EU and other rich nations. The Biden administration is reportedly considering dropping US opposition to the waiver, with a US Trade representative saying at the WTO that “the market once again has failed in meeting the health needs of developing countries”.

The next TRIPS waiver meeting at the WHO is on Friday, 30 April. If you believe in vaccine equality, and that no person should be left behind, you can take action today.

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