As restrictions ease in various provinces across the country, the idea of “returning to normal” remains far out of sight for the poorest people on the planet.
While Canada boasts high vaccination rates and begins to roll out booster shots, vaccination rates remain depressingly low for most people around the world. Across Africa, less than 5% of the population has received their COVID vaccinations. In Uganda specifically, less than 1% of people are fully vaccinated.
Why is this? Because the price of a single dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine charged to the African Union is the same as Uganda spends per citizen on health in a whole year.
This is why the world needs action now to improve access to COVID19 vaccines. Oxfam, together with allies in the People’s Vaccine Alliance, continues to call for an emergency waiver on Trade Related and Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) at the World Trade Organization.
From the beginning of the pandemic, rich country leaders promised that any successful vaccine would be a global public good. They said, "No one is safe until everyone is safe.” Instead of acting on this ideal, rich countries and pharmaceutical corporations have created an unnecessary and deadly vaccine apartheid.
Right now, we have an opportunity to make a small change that could help at least one country – and set a precedent for more action.
Canadian vaccine manufacturer Biolyse wants to produce and export 15 million doses of a patented COVID19 vaccine to Bolivia, a country struggling to fight COVID19. Under Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR), generic pharmaceutical manufacturers like Biolyse can obtain a compulsory license to produce and export lower-cost versions of patented medicines to developing countries in the event of a public health emergency.
The Government of Canada has so far refused to add COVID-19 vaccines to the Schedule 1 list of essential medicines of the Patent Act, which would allow Biolyse to produce vaccines under CAMR.
In response to Canada’s failure to take this simple measure, a parliamentary petition has been opened to push for discussion of the issue in government.
A change to the Schedule 1 list of essential medicines could mean a change for the lives of millions of people living in poverty worldwide.