FSM supports equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines

FSM supports the European Union’s call for WHO to achieve equitable access to quality, safe, and efficacious COVID-19 vaccines and related health technologies.

There is concern the pharmaceutical companies will bury COVID-19 treatments and vaccines in a thicket of patents, making them unaffordable to the world’s poorest. Consequently, Assoc Prof Ken Henry, President of FSM, has written to the Federal Minister for Health to urge Australia to continue supporting the World Health Organisation (WHO) in their efforts to secure equitable access to safe and efficacious COVID-19 vaccines as they become available. The text of the letter follows:

“Following US President Trump’s decision to halt financial support to WHO over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, I was pleased to hear Prime Minister Scott Morrison say that, while Australia will continue to fund WHO, he will continue to criticise it. I bring to your attention the European Union draft resolution on Covid-19 for the World Health Assembly. In the section directed at the WHO Director-General, operative paragraph 5.17 states (my emphasis):

“OP5.17 Draft a plan, in consultation with Member States, in line with their respective obligations resulting from international treaties and with inputs from relevant international organizations including WIPO, GAVI, UNITAID, the Medicines Patent Pool, CEPI, the Global Fund to fight Aids, TB and Malaria, and UNICEF, to achieve equitable access to quality, safe, and efficacious COVID-19 vaccines and other health technologies necessary for COVID-19 response, for consideration of the WHO Governing Bodies.”

The stark disparity in deaths due to COVID-19 between African-Americans (and Hispanic Americans) compared with more privileged white Americans highlights the social determinants of health, the need to minimise health inequalities and ensure essential medicines and vaccines are available to all.  Australia has a similar disparity with respect to indigenous Australians, refugees in detention and people seeking asylum. 

Friends of Science in Medicine asks your government to support the European Union draft resolution on Covid-19 for the 73rd World Health Assembly (virtual session) and apply these principles to Australia.”

Click here to read and download a PDF file of the letter.