In a final advocacy push leading up to the G20 Summit in Rome later this month, activists held a demonstration right in front of the European Commission on October 20th. The aim of the protest was to put pressure and urge world leaders from the European Union and the G20 countries to commit to ensure vaccine access for the entire world, not just for the wealthy countries.
The worry is, if the G20 does not act now, vaccine-resistant variants will continue emerging, millions more will die, and lockdowns and economic instability will continue for the world’s most vulnerable populations.
Despite the cloudy weather, many people joined the protest, from public health specialists, medical workers, health activists and researchers, to a significant group of the migrant communities representatives. Importantly, they originated from nearly half of the globe including Africa, the Middle East, as well as from Central and Eastern Europe.
The vibrant atmosphere attracted the attention of those passing by, some of them decided to join in and fight for what’s right and others took pictures and videos or just greeted the protesters to show their support.
The demonstration was part of the global “Vaccinate Our World” (VOW) campaign, where you can now pledge as an individual or organisation to fight for vaccine access around the globe.
It was led by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and was the final protest in a series of events which have been recently held in other European countries, such as Ukraine, Netherlands and UK. These protests are vital for sending a wake-up call to the EU and G20 leaders ahead of the Rome Summit.
Wealthy nations have drawn global criticism for hoarding vaccines and not urging pharmaceutical companies to share their know-how for the vaccine research and development, funded primarily by taxpayers. As of early October, 3.6 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered globally, with nearly 80% of those going to people in high and upper-middle income countries. Barely 7% of the 1.3 billion people on the African continent have received even one dose. The discrepancy is worse for low-income countries where less than 2.5% of people have had a shot.
“After two years of the COVID-19 crisis, we see even bigger discrepancies in the world that has the vaccine, and the world that does not have it. We were hoping through the COVAX initiative, and discussions at EU level with the European Commission and the high-income countries, everybody globally will have access to vaccines, but we see that this is not true,” Anna Zakowicz, Deputy Bureau Chief and Director of Programmes at AHF Europe said at the event.
“We are here today from the AHF organization, and we also bring many supporters of the cause. You will see here people from Africa, and Eastern Europe, these people and their families have a right to the vaccine. The people are here to be the voice and to push for the change, we need to have different decisions, we need to think differently,” she added.
Vaccine Our World activists recently organized protests at the headquarters of U.S. based COVID-19 vaccine makers Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to demand that they halt their ‘pandemic profiteering’ and share their know-how and technologies to increase vaccine production globally.
“We want to ask the European Council and the President to stop the Pharma companies bullying countries, as it was recently revealed in a Public Citizen report that they have used their special conditions in all contracts and agreements. This allows them to make extra profits when countries, governments and the EU Commission buy vaccines and as a European citizen, we pay our taxes, and these taxes are going to enrich these companies. They are using our desperate need to stop this public health crisis and they benefit. We totally understand that Pharma are business companies, but when it is a global public health crisis they cannot use this to make additional billions and billions,” said Zoya Shabarova, AHF Europe Bureau Chief.
About AIDS Healthcare Foundation
AHF is the largest global AIDS organization and currently provides medical care and/or services to over 1.6 million clients in 45 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Europe.