More than 140 past and present world leaders signed a letter on Thursday, urging governments and the World Health Assembly (WHA) to rally behind “a people’s vaccine” for COVID-19 that will be made available for everyone across the globe.
Coordinated by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and Oxfam, the letter requests that any treatments and vaccines be patent-free, free of charge, and distributed equally and fairly to all.
The letter comes a day after the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi promised that if it successfully develops the COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine, the US would be the first country to receive it.
Sanofi later rescinded the statement, following the publication of the letter.
The letter also warns that any future vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 must be distributed to everyone around the world to save lives, noting that the world is only as healthy as its most vulnerable citizens.
The #coronavirus crisis has shown us that the right to health is more important than ever, & that we are only healthy when we are ALL healthy.— UNAIDS (@UNAIDS) May 14, 2020
When a #COVID19 vaccine is found, it must be available to ALL people, in ALL countries, free of charge.
It must be the #PeoplesVaccine.
“Our world will only be safer once everyone can benefit from the science and access a vaccine,” the letter reads.
One of the letter’s signatories, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, encouraged all nations to share any relevant scientific research and echoed the letter’s sentiment that a coronavirus vaccine should be free and rapidly distributed.
“Nobody should be pushed to the back of the vaccine queue because of where they live or what they earn,” Ramaphosa said in a press release.
Government leaders around the world pledged $8 billion to fund and develop a COVID-19 vaccine on May 4, as part of the EU’s Coronavirus Global Response.
While vaccine development for the virus is still in its early stages, the letter is preemptively calling on the WHA to create a global agreement that ultimately ensures that the vaccine will be available to all when it is ready.
“Only a people’s vaccine — with equality and solidarity at its core — can protect all of humanity and get our societies safely running again,” the letter says.