New website provides overview and review of initiatives for access to medical products against Covid-19
Wemos has launched covid19response.org, a website that provides an up-to-date overview of international initiatives by public institutions to enhance access to medical products against Covid-19, such as vaccines, medicines and diagnostics. It presents their characteristics and reviews their potential to contribute to an equitable and effective response to the current and future pandemics, as well as the support they need to become successful. Among the assessed initiatives are COVAX, the TRIPS Waiver and the South African mRNA hub.
Equal access to Covid-19 innovations
To effectively combat the current and future pandemics, everyone in the world needs access to medical innovations. However, access is still highly unequal. High-income countries can vaccinate their population multiple times, while lower-income countries experience dire vaccine shortages. This disparity is unacceptable as it leads to avoidable deaths, hardship and economic damage. Wemos therefore advocates a system of medical innovation that primarily serves the global public interest instead of solely commercial or national interests.
Several public institutions, such as the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the European Commission, have started or proposed a wide variety of international initiatives to improve global access to key medical innovations. On covid19response.org, Wemos outlines these initiatives and assesses their potential to contribute to an equitable and effective Covid-19 response. These assessments are based on five main principles: 1) sufficiency, 2) urgency, 3) sustainability, 4) power balance, and 5) public first.
According to Wemos, achieving an equitable and effective Covid-19 response requires initiatives that increase the range of producers of Covid-19 innovations worldwide and contribute to self-sufficiency of low- and middle-income countries. This breaks dependencies on high-income countries and a few leading pharmaceutical companies, stimulates solutions for local context, and brings prices down. Investing in expanding local production capacity in low- and middle-income countries also improves resilience to future public health emergencies of local and international concern.
Wemos therefore calls upon policy makers around the world to support initiatives such as the Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) and Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) that facilitate the sharing of know-how and technology needed for production. Also the TRIPS Waiver proposal by India and South Africa requires full support, as it would allow qualified pharmaceutical companies other than the right holders to produce Covid-19 innovations. The South African mRNA hub is currently making great strides in developing its own mRNA vaccine. As it seeks to produce and distribute vaccines locally and provide capacity building in the region, the mRNA hub model presents a structural solution to current inequities in access with lasting effects beyond this pandemic.
Initiatives aiming to increase the funding for pandemic preparedness and response, including local manufacturing capacity, such as the G20’s Global Health Threats Fund and European Commission’s HERA, should champion democratic governance and attach conditions to their funding to ensure the sharing of know-how and technology needed for production and to foster fair pricing. Unfortunately, as the overview on covid19response.org shows, this is not yet a given.
For short-term relief, donating vaccines to low- and middle-income countries through COVAX should be intensified. Though, this cannot be considered a long-term solution as it perpetuates the dependence of low- and middle-income countries on high-income countries.
For the complete overview of initiatives and their reviews, please visit covid19response.org.
For more information about the context of the website and the methodology used for reviewing the initiatives, please visit covid19response.org/about.
The information on the website will be updated regularly, and more initiatives will be added in the (near) future.
On Wednesday 2 March 2022, 3 PM CET, Wemos organises a webinar to present the new website and clarify the reviews of the initiatives. We will provide an invitation and registration link soon, but please save the date in advance.
Wemos is an international civil society organisation advocating equal access to health for everyone in the world. Together with our partners, we propose and support solutions for the root causes of limited access to health services and protection against health threats. Currently, we focus on achieving access to medicines and vaccines for all, availability of sufficient health personnel with proper working conditions, and adequate funding to enable quality healthcare. Since we were founded 40 years ago by a group of Dutch medical students, we have acquired an international reputation for our rights-based and systemic approach to health. More information: www.wemos.nl/en.