Who will champion universal and free access to COVID-19 treatments?
Presidential candidate Joe Biden broke news today, declaring that he would “absolutely positively” commit to sharing technology and access to any COVID-19 vaccines developed in the US in an interview with Ady Barkan—a health activist who is dying of ALS. “It’s the only humane thing in the world to do,” Biden said. “It's not only a good thing to do, it's overwhelmingly in our interest to do it as well.”
Does this mean he would support a People’s Vaccine—free and accessible—if elected? He should—and President Trump should make the same commitment now.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the world, Oxfam’s call for a People’s Vaccine has never been more important. More than 140 leaders worldwide have committed to ensure universal and free access to COVID-19 treatments—and it’s now time for the next US president to make the same pledge.
Why a free and fair COVID-19 vaccine matters
The next president should ensure open access to all COVID-19 vaccines and treatments for three reasons:
- It is the quickest way to end the pandemic. We cannot safeguard our health and reopen our economy safely until most of the 8 billion people across the globe are vaccinated. Producing billions of vaccine doses will require the entire world’s manufacturing capacity—no one company and no one country can do it alone.
- We know what happens when technology isn’t shared—the giant pharmaceutical companies that control it charge astronomical prices. Just this past week, the American people found out that one of the only effective COVID-19 treatments will be priced at more than $3,000 a dose, despite costing less than $1 to produce. What’s especially galling is that US taxpayers have paid—and continue to pay—billions of dollars toward the development of COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. Medicines created through public investment should be shared public goods.
- If access to COVID-19 treatments depends on the ability to pay—not on need—then Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) will likely be last in line for life-saving treatments. The pandemic has already exposed deeply rooted racial inequalities in healthcare, with people of color getting sick and dying of COVID-19 at vastly disproportionate rates. We need a People’s Vaccine to make sure that the people who need it most are first—and not last—in line.
President Trump has not made a definitive statement on the People’s Vaccine. His administration's intention to withdraw the US from the World Health Organization (WHO), a key body for global collaboration on addressing the pandemic, is a giant step backward. Some diplomats have also warned that the administration’s Operation Warp Speed policy and an “America First” approach to the vaccine could “incite a global vaccine brawl,” undermining the longer term economic recovery both in the US and around the world.
Sign our petition calling for a People’s Vaccine
With rich companies racing to hoard vaccines, people in low and middle-income countries and front line health care workers—most of whom are women—are fearful of being left behind.
Sharing access to US-developed COVID-19 medicines is a critical part of achieving a People’s Vaccine, and the next US President must show leadership to ensure that pharmaceutical companies do not price-gouge as we seek solutions to the global pandemic. We need to see more robust and detailed commitments from our leaders and from pharmaceutical companies both here in the US and around the world.