To Help India Now We Must Act Against Vaccine Apartheid

INDIA IS FACING A COVID CRISIS.

Tell your representatives to stop contributing to Vaccine Apartheid. Urge Congress to lift restrictions on COVID vaccines, vaccine ingredients, and patents and to send urgent aid to India right now.

The situation:

India has been making and exporting vaccines for many developing countries, and now it’s facing the world’s worst COVID-19 surge.

Over 300,000 new infections are recorded daily in India, and this is most likely an undercount. Hospitals are out of beds, oxygen, and medication and now due to a deadly new virus variant, younger people are falling seriously ill at an alarming rate.

After much global pressure the United States has just announced that it will:

  • Make available raw materials needed to manufacture the Covishield vaccine in India.

But the United States can do more and It can do so by stopping Vaccine Apartheid and sending mutual aid.

The Defense Production Act (DPA), along with executive orders that ensured America’s vaccine supply, have restricted exports of vaccines and crucial vaccine ingredients. Given the globally connected nature of supply chains, this means that products like bags and filters, cell culture medias, single-use tubing assemblies, and other raw materials crucial for the production of vaccines in other parts of the world, and especially in India are currently facing imminent supply constraints. This impacts not only India but the over 95 countries in the Global South who are relying on vaccines manufactured in India.

Additionally Biden must support waiving The WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) that protect vaccine intellectual property rights and pharma interests. Global South Countries are making a push to waive TRIPS to save millions of lives. Last October India and South Africa pushed for a COVID patent ban, which was blocked. (Rich Countries Block India, South Africa’s Bid to Ban COVID Vaccine Patents)

These ingredients are being hoarded by governments like the US who are in a decline related to the virus and yet no ease of the supplies has been negotiated to support countries in crisis like India.

Many activists like the The People’s Vaccine Alliance call this a Vaccine apartheid with the UN noting that While one in four citizens of rich nations have had a vaccine, just one in 500 people in poorer countries have done so, meaning the death toll continues to climb as the virus remains out of control. Epidemiologists are predicting we have less than a year before mutations could render the current vaccines ineffective.

The People’s Vaccine Alliance calculates that Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca have paid out $26 billion in dividends and stock buybacks to their shareholders in the past 12 months. The total of these pay outs is enough to vaccinate 1.3 billion people — the same as the population of Africa

“This is a public health emergency, not a private profit opportunity,” said Oxfam Health Policy Manager Anna Marriott. “We should not be letting corporations decide who lives and who dies while boosting their profits. We need a people’s vaccine, not a profit vaccine.”

‘Vaccine apartheid is not a natural phenomenon but the result of governments stepping back and allowing corporations to call the shots. Instead of creating new vaccine billionaires we need to be vaccinating billions in developing countries. It is appalling that Big Pharma is making huge pay-outs to wealthy shareholders in the face of this global health emergency,” Marriott said.

Meanwhile, the drug industry is lobbying to oppose a proposed intellectual property waiver that would allow cheap, generic COVID vaccines to be produced globally.

If these restrictions aren’t lifted now, millions more will suffer, in India and around the world. What’s more, if we don’t quickly vaccinate the global population, new vaccine-resistant COVID strains are likely to emerge, and the pandemic will be here to stay.

In India Dalit Bahujans and Adivasis communities are facing the worst of the pandemic. With many communities devestated by the virus. Our communities are holding horrifying stories of the dead, dear ones who have died because of lack of medicine and hospital beds. This cannot continue. The time to act is now.

As Americans we have a morally responsibility to turn the tide. The vaccine were funded with American Taxpayers dollars and we must not fail the global response to Covid. Heidi Chow, Senior Campaigns and Policy Manager at Global Justice Now notes “It’s morally bankrupt for rich country leaders to allow a small group of corporations to keep the vaccine technology and know-how under lock and key while selling their limited doses to the highest bidder.”

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Call your representatives first thing on Monday and tell them to:
  • Lift export restrictions on vaccines and vaccine ingredients.

Here is a list and script for your calls:

Click here for a script to call your members of Congress.

Additionally for South Asian Americans, click here for a script and a list of phone numbers to call one of the Desi members of Congress.

2) Next Call the Office of the United States Trade Representative. This office can also lift restrictions and the script is located above.

3) Donate to Mutual Aid Right Now: Give now and give liberally.

Here is a link for many mutual aid projects across India. https://docs.google.com/document/u/0/d/1eiobgyrl8iz-R1Dz7c4R5pzzzkuZLBj99vaC7T_UeVo/mobilebasic

4) Join community South Asian American Accountability Efforts. Here are few:

  • Kshama Sawant, member, Seattle City Council, has sponsored a resolution that asks the US for a waiver of IP rights over Covid-19 vaccines

Want more information about this situation? Read these articles and opinion pieces:

We work at the intersection of political organizing, community based participatory research, socially-engaged arts, & digital security. Follow us @equalitylabs

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