Right now in Wales, it may feel that the end of the pandemic is in sight, but in some places in the world the pandemic is becoming even more deadly.
Whilst we were enjoying watching the euros in June, in Uganda, their national football stadium was being used as a field hospital to treat COVID patients.
The cases in the country also increased significantly, by 1,000 per cent in June, with only 4,000 people out of a population of 45 million having received two doses of the vaccine. This deadly lack of vaccines is a story that is being repeated across the world, namely in low-income countries.
We know that vaccines are our best hope of getting the pandemic under control and preventing more deaths, but it seems that companies and factories that could be making vaccine doses are standing on the side-lines because a monopoly of big pharmaceutical corporations are seemingly refusing to share intellectual property rights with other companies.
These monopolies are being protected by a handful of rich countries, including the UK, despite the huge cost to us all if global vaccine production isn’t ramped up and vaccines are universally rolled out.
This is a global pandemic and as such we need to be working globally.
Not only are we obligated on a moral and ethical level to ensure vaccines are created and rolled out in low-income countries, but we would also be decreasing the risk of variants developing and therefore speeding up the end of the pandemic.
Wales has committed to the Well-being of Future Generations Act, which requires us to be a globally responsible nation. This needs to be more than just empty words and must be translated into action immediately.
A few weeks ago, I tabled a Statement of Opinion in the Senedd, the Welsh Parliament, reminding my fellow members of the said commitment, and calling on the UK Prime Minister to waive intellectual property rules and share vaccine know-how and technology with the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool. This would enable the life-saving escalation in vaccine production needed.
These calls echo those made by a coalition of Welsh charities, led by Oxfam Cymru and supporting the international People’s Vaccine Alliance’s stance, urging the Senedd to signal its strong support for the ending of pharmaceutical monopolies.
Oxfam Cymru have spoken about the fact that members of the G7 including the UK and Germany are blocking proposals that have been backed by President Biden, the French, New Zealand and Spanish governments, amongst others, for supplies of the vaccines to be boosted by sharing patents, information and technology for their production.
The UK’s stance on this is irresponsible and completely senseless, both for the countless lives it endangers in countries that will be left without vaccines, as well as for the lives at home it puts at risk by dragging out the pandemic, as this move will undoubtedly do.
Allowing for countries to become hot beds for covid variants is a recipe for disaster. We will not be immune to its consequences, especially considering the Westminster Government has made it evident that it can’t suppress the spread of new variants that enter the UK.
The UK must make the right decision here - it has an international duty of care that it must fulfil. We can't stand aside and watch this disaster continue to unfold; we cannot control this virus only within our borders.
Picture licence: "Syringe and Vaccine" by NIAID is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/