Transcript: Biden Must Deliver COVID-19 WTO TRIPS Waiver at WTO Ministerial, Say Members of Congress, Health, Labor, Human Rights and Faith Leaders at Press Conference as Dozens of Civil Society Groups Deliver Three Million Petitions to Biden Administration

Lori Wallach 

Welcome, everybody. And thank you very much for joining us today for a press conference featuring members of the US Congress and leaders of the US, labor, health, faith and other civil society groups. The members of Congress are joining us today as 40 civil society groups deliver 3 million petitions to President Biden, urging him to lead to deliver a waiver of the WTO intellectual property barriers that are now limiting the necessary production of COVID-19. Vaccines, treatments and tests needed to end the pandemic. Today we are a week before the November 30 WTO ministerial starts the MC 12. And we’re more than a year after initially, an emergency COVID waiver proposal was introduced by South Africa and India. Today, we are calling on President Biden to deliver on his pledge made as a candidate and repeated repeatedly during his presidency to remove the intellectual property barriers that limit access to COVID-19 vaccines and medicines and that are prolonging the pandemic. To do this, he must lead to secure a waiver at the WTO ministerial starting next week. Today, a coalition of 40 organizations are delivering 3 million petitions, urging the President to step up. Basically, the bottom line here is a meaningful WTO waiver that can facilitate the necessary scale-up of production of COVID-19. Vaccines, treatments and tests to end the pandemic will only happen if the United States, if President Biden applies maximum diplomatic and political pressure to achieve it. On May 5 people around the globe celebrated the Biden administration in the President’s announcement have supported the waiver. Countries around the world followed suit. There were already 100 supporting now there are 120, including almost every country in the WTO wants some kind of a waiver. But since then, the administration’s passive approach has allowed the European Union, the UK and Switzerland to block the final waiver agreement that is needed. So today, there are less than 7% of people in low-income countries vaccinated and the vaccine makers have not met their 2021 pledges. And in fact, there’s now more demands as rich countries are doing boosters and children are getting vaccinated. This petition delivery is part of dozens of actions taking place around the world. I had the ministerial to insist that this waiver be delivered. A global call to action for the waiver is endorsed by organizations like the powerful global Labor Federation, the International Trade Union Confederation and groups like Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam, Avaaz, the People’s Vaccine Alliance, Greenpeace and more. So there are dozens of actions in the news release that will follow with also a transcript of this call, you will see links to the call of action and a map of all the events around the world that started last week and go through the WTO ministerial. We are very proud to be able to have the team today that represents a sample of the power going on around the world calling for this waiver, and it’s my honor to first introduce Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky as our first speaker. parliamentarians and legislators around the world including in the European Union parliament are calling for this waiver. There is huge support. Congressman Schakowsky has been one of the leaders in the US organizing members to make clear the US Congress is also part of this movement to end the pandemic by getting access to medicines. She is the representative of Illinois ninth district as Senior Chief Deputy Whip. She is the chair of the Consumer Protection Commerce Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and is part of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, please.

 

Rep. Schakowsky 

Thank you, Lori, and I’m so proud to be part of this wonderful panel today. The world is fast approaching a moment of opportunity to begin the end of the COVID 19 pandemic. Starting November 30. The World Trade Organization will convene in an international ministerial conference in Geneva, which could make decisions that will finally halt the worldwide pandemic that threatens humanity, humankind throughout the globe. The good news is that there are now that there are now wonderful vaccines that are extremely effective in combating the virus and the current Delta variants as well. The bad news is that outside of the United States and a handful of other countries, there are only a tiny percentage of people that have received the vaccine as you as you pointed out. Worse yet, the reality is that the presence of the virus anywhere is a threat to people everywhere. And particularly since it might not be far away, that a variant that is resistant to the current vaccine could emerge. 5.3 million people have died around the world, including 750,000. Americans, now is the time to stop the carnage. And the way out is simple actually. Distributing the vaccine around the globe, with life-saving, would be life-saving. And we could actually do this it can be done. President Biden on May 5 of this year, made the wise and courageous decision to support what is called the TRIPS waiver. And along with his great trade representative Catherine Thai. And we know that this would this temporary waiver, this is only during the pandemic would require the risk that the recipe for mRNA vaccines to be shared around the world. It would mean that big pharma companies, including pharma and Maderna, would temporarily relax their monopoly rights and allow the manufacturer of the vaccine in capable countries around the world to absolutely be able to participate and produce their own vaccines, particularly in the Global South. And yes, the capacity is there in many countries. 130 countries support President Biden’s position to deliver widespread manufacturing. But sadly, a handful of rich countries are side are still siding with the pharmaceutical companies. It’s it’s really unthinkable in the world today, that we could do something about this, and that the pharmaceutical companies would rather protect their monopoly power and their huge profits. They are using the unparalleled lobbying power that they have to oppose the waiver. We must remind them that billions of taxpayer dollars here in the United States in particular have gone into the development and distribution of the vaccines. And now we are appealing to President Biden to use his indispensable leadership power to insist that the World Trade Organization follow his lead, and that and that of the vast majority of the members of the World Trade Organization and approve a temporary TRIPS waiver. Our global economy cannot recover if only part of the world is vaccinated here in the United States. We have appropriated billions of dollars for emergency relief for the travel and, and tourism and hospitality industry, these industries and the economy. are everywhere will not be able to recover unless we crush the pandemic. And we can do it. So let me just end by thanking the more than 40 Labor, Health and civic and faith organizations who are sending 3 million I’ve never as an organizer, I’ve never heard of a number like that 3 million petitions to President Biden seeking his help in the fight to win a TRIPS waiver. And, and approve and approve it immediately. Are we know that we can, we can do this and I am so proud to be part of a niche of a worldwide effort of ordinary people in their own communities of community of worldwide leaders who are fighting so hard to make this happen. And with the panel that you’re hearing here right now. So thank you, and I yield back.

 

Lori Wallach 

Thank you Congressman Schakowsky very much. It’s now my honor to introduce Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. Congresswoman DeLauro is very well known as a champion of fair trade and for public health and is also with Congressman Schakowsky been one of our champions, making sure the whole world knows the Democrats in Congress want this waiver and support the president supporting it. Congresswoman DeLauro represents the third congressional district of Connecticut’s, and she is the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Chairwoman DeLauro, please.

 

Rep. Rosa DeLauro 

Lovely. Thanks so much. And you know, the work of the global trade watch and your work really isn’t? It really is is beyond and thank you so, so much for moderating today’s event organizing today’s event, and I also want to acknowledge the other folks who are with us, Paul O’Brien, Avril Benoît, Sara Nelson, Joia Mukherjee, Pauline Machina, Asia Russell, and of course, without question, someone who has been the leader on this effort in the Congress, and that’s my colleague and my friend, Jan Schakowsky. To all of you. Thank you for joining us today. You have been really outstanding partners in urging the administration to safeguard Americans health and their economic security and hold President Biden accountable so that he finally delivers on his pledge to save lives around the world by leading the global vaccination effort and being able to end the pandemic. Last week, I held a labor HHS subcommittee meeting on appropriations, I did a hearing with Dr. Kessler and with Director Pace and Dr. Jeff Brown of our nation’s role in the global COVID-19 vaccinate vaccine equity, I held the hearing, because I am disturbed by the general lack of urgency in ensuring every person across the world has access to the COVID-19 vaccine. While the US is a leader in the fight to vaccinate the world. Why is it taking so long to manufacture the vaccine for the life of me I cannot understand why we still are in this predicament. People are dying. Time is of the essence. And in the midst of it all, Maderna is making billions of dollars profiting off of the suffering of those who refuse to save. This is unacceptable. So now just one week before the World Trade Organization ministerial begins. I’m once again calling on President Biden to step up, deliver on an agreement to waive WTO intellectual property temporarily waive these barriers that are limiting the supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostic tests that are critical to being able to end the pandemic. Time and time again. I’ve made it clear that while we have made enormous strides in vaccines, vaccinating the US population here at home, no one is safe until everyone is safe. And as we all know the Coronavirus continues surging and far too many countries around the world. These are extraordinary times that demand extraordinary measures. That’s why I will continue I know we will all continue to support the decision made by the President earlier this year out the WTO to temporarily waive some of the world’s intellectual property. Those rules increase the global supply for Coronavirus vaccines, if there is anything that we can all agree on. It is that everywhere. Everyone deserves access to these life-saving vaccines next week, when the WTO Ministerial Conference kicks off. President Biden’s leadership will never be more essential. To help end this pandemic, the stakes could not be higher, and inaction is not an option. Failure to enact a waiver will only prolong the pandemic, leading to more deaths, illness, economic hardship, and social and political disruption around the world. It is long past time for the President to deliver on this historic support for this waiver, I strongly believe that we will be successful only if the president working with our USTR Ambassador Katherine Tai us the opportunity to get the WTO waiver done, which will facilitate broad tech transfer, speed up greater COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and treatments. Now manufacturing by expanding global production, the United States has a moral responsibility to step up and to lead to share what we have learned to do everything we can to alleviate the suffering around the world. I applaud the administration for displaying the kind of bold leadership we needed at the WTO earlier this year, but let’s follow through and expand that global supply of vaccines, deliver them to the people who need them most and bring us closer to ending this pandemic once and for all. I agreed with Dr. Fauci when he said and I quote, you cannot have people throughout the world dying, because they do not have access to the product that rich people have access to. This is one of the moral questions of our time. And I firmly believe that we need to be on the right side of history. And that means prioritizing people over the pharmaceutical profits and ensuring that a vaccine is that global common good during the campaign, then President Biden said he would commit to sharing technology and access to Coronavirus vaccines if the United States developed one first. And we have we have so let me just say that the President was right then. And as President, he was right at the WTO. And he will be right again. Next week, once we deliver on these actions at the WTO Ministerial Conference, doing our part to end the pandemic is a moral necessity that would help to restore the US leadership around the world. So I’m asking the President, as we all are, the time to act is now let’s get this done. Give millions of people access to the new treatments, the promise to save countless lives. I thank you, I thank the 40 organizations and the 3 million petitions for making their voices heard. And that is what it takes. Now. It’s let’s make our voices heard. Thank you. And I yield back.

 

Lori Wallach 

Thank you very much, Congresswoman DeLauro. Thank you to both of our congressional champions so very much. And now it is my honor to introduce Paul O’Brien, who is the Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, Paul.

 

Paul O’Brien 

Thanks, Lori and Public Citizen for your leadership, and Congresswoman Schakowsky and DeLauro for your leadership. It’s great to join with all these other leaders and with 3 million people who are writing today to say now is the time President Biden. We can’t wait any longer. The US role in the world is changing. Its influence is changing. The Biden administration says it wants to reestablish human rights at the center of its foreign policy, and to help us navigate the challenges in these moments. But what does that really mean? What does it mean for this administration in this moment, to put diplomatic muscle behind a human rights-based commitment to end this pandemic? I’ll tell you what, it doesn’t mean, callbacks, which is the way most vaccines have been distributed. It’s an important initiative. It’s a charity model. It doesn’t give countries the right to produce the vaccine. Just like all other aid models, its currency is the leftover wealth of rich nations. We give what we can afford to give once we’ve taken care of ourselves. How’s it going? 10% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa have received one dose of the vaccine that is fairly typical when you rely exclusively on a charity-based model. This pandemic is one of the challenges of our times and it is impacting the entire human rights agenda. As Representative Schakowsky said, it’s taking more than 5 million lives and it’s also wreaking havoc on political rights. It’s leading to protests all around the world and those protests will get worse as it tears economies apart and leaves more and more people behind in terms of economic and social and cultural rights. If you’re rich enough to own pharma stocks, you’re doing fine. But if you’re waiting for economies to reopen, if you’re waiting for your job to come back online once supply chains reopen, if you’re waiting for basic health care until we create a rights based solution to the current pandemic, you’re out of luck. Instead of the United States showing sufficient leadership from the moment it made those announcements to solve the problem that we’ve got now, it has rested on its hands. The only way we are going to get there in this moment is if we start to regulate the power of pharmaceutical companies and their indemnification lawyers who are controlling the global response to this pandemic, essentially, as the two are two congressional leaders said, you’ve got three countries through the EU, where by the way, it’s worth noticing, noting that pharmaceutical companies have huge political power in Germany, in Switzerland and in the United Kingdom, essentially blocking the TRIPS waiver from happening even though more than 100 countries support the waiver. Even though 3 million people say the time to act is now those three countries are being blocked, and the one other are sorry, those three countries are blocking us from moving forward using the EU and its mechanisms. The one country that can change this equation is another place where pharmaceutical corporations have huge power. That’s the United States. And it is time for this government to take back power from the pharmaceutical companies and insist that our diplomatic wait goes towards solving this problem. This is the moment President Biden to prove that you’re willing to put muscle behind a rights based foreign policy, hold pharmaceutical companies accountable, hold those countries accountable, that have led pharma have too much power and unblock the Crips waiver so that we can find a right space solution to this pandemic. Thank you.

 

Lori Wallach 

Thank you very much, Paul. It’s now my honor to introduce Dr. Joya Mukherjee MD mph, she is the Chief Medical Officer of partners in the house. The organization many of us know for their on the ground, inspiring work around the world caring for people and fighting pandemics. Dr. Mukherjee, please.

 

Dr. Joia Mukherjee 

Great, thank you so much, to all the speakers and thank you to Public Citizen for arranging this important press conference ahead of the WTO ministerial meeting. My organization Partners in Health has been working on pandemics unwittingly because what we care about is health and justice. And what we see is that pandemics track along the fault lines of society. So if you are standing with the poorest people, the most marginalized people, people who are incarcerated, people who are living in poor quality housing, what you see is the impacts of this pandemic are profound. We’ve seen this in the United States and our work in Immokalee, Florida with farmworkers. We’ve seen this, you know, in Peru in the shanty towns just north of Lima. And we’ve seen it in many poor communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. So voting for vaccine equity is a vote for human dignity. And it’s a vote against this kind of elite ism that we see now. And it’s an elite ism that is driven by the profit of just a few. And one of the things that we find very perplexing because Partners in Health has worked in medication and vaccine equity for three decades now. Whether it was HIV medicines, or the vaccine against human papilloma virus, we have tried to get these medicines, vaccines and other therapeutics to the poorest people in the world. And we are used to unfortunately, markets failing the poor. What we have been stunned with is this market is failing the market itself. And we see that global trade is crippled that supply lines are crippled that the travel industry that we’re hear more about from our colleague, Sarah Nelson is crippled and that crippling of course is going to be hardest on the poor. And so we have the actual profit of of handful of people, the newly minted pandemic billionaires that is failing The very market that we say that we’re protecting through these patents. So this is just a false argument that somehow protecting patents is going to save the market for innovation. And we saw it, I’m here with my colleague and old friend Asia wrestle, we saw it with HIV, the idea that if we make these drugs available, there will never again be innovation from pharma, they will be so demoralized that they won’t possibly be able to make new drugs, or new therapeutics or new vaccines, this is patently a lie. And we know that from our experience, so we are in a position where we as America could regain our status as moral leaders, if we do the right thing, which is waving the patents. But more importantly, at this point, it’s not just the talk of waving the patents, it’s the actualization, the language of that the insistence on sharing know-how. And last and most importantly, perhaps, is the funding. It does not take a lot of funding to mass-produce this vaccine, it will take time. But we have been advocating this group of people and the millions of people that support this idea around the world. We’ve been advocating for this since before the vaccine was even recognized. And we were told in November of 2020, that well, if we did manufacturing, it’ll take at least six months. Well, six months from November was May. And if we had had the investments in November of 2020, to manufacture these vaccines, we would have been producing them in Africa and Latin American Asia in May of 2021. So yes, it will take time there is lead time to make these vaccines, but we need to do it now. We needed to do it yesterday. So we are tired. My staff around the world, my dear friends working on the front lines often on immunized even as I have had my booster shots, right? These people are tired of being on the frontlines. health workers around the world have not been vaccinated, vulnerable people, not only the elderly, but people living with tuberculosis and cancer and other immune deficiencies. They have not been vaccinated. And so how can we look at this, as a national, this kind of nationalism, vaccine nationalism is just as bad as building a wall. It is building a wall, it’s building a wall around our privilege, building a wall saying we alone can get this amazing fruits of modern medicine. And there are people talking about whether or not we should take boosters. This to me is even a false argument. Because that plays into the narrative, that this is a scarce commodity, it is only a scarce commodity, because farmer wants it to be a scarce commodity, so that they can maximize profit. And we just need to say enough is enough. This is the time for us to show leadership. And lastly, I would say that we’re often hearing, unfortunately, I think that China is the real enemy. This is not true. This must be a collaborative effort across the world. And what we see is that China is stepping up and vaccinating people in Africa, in the Middle East, in Latin America, in Asia, we need to do our share, we need to do our share and not look at this again as us against them. This is a test for our ability as a globe to collaborate in the 21st century. And if we can’t do this, two shots, two shots per person across the globe, how can we imagine coordinating on climate change collaborating on these other huge existential threats? So we are begging, we are calling on the Biden ministration to fully articulate what a patent waiver is to force the sharing of know-how and to put money into this billions of dollars, but not an insurmountable number a few weeks, you know, in Iraq and Afghanistan, that that could really get this going quickly. And we would be making these vaccines which will have long-term benefits for these countries in the ability to transfer technology quickly. So thank you so much for joining in all our friends from the press and for continuing to cover the story. We have an uphill battle to climb but we are willing to do it together with all of you.

 

Lori Wallach 

Thank you very much, Dr. Mukherjee. And just for the press a fact given this China baiting myth of somehow a waiver would give away us technology not only was mRNA created by scientists around the world, collaborating together, but by in tech, the German company that created the Pfizer vaccine simultaneously made a contract with a Chinese firm, fo soon pharmaceutical, transferred the technology it is in China, if there is a cat in a bag, the bag and the cat are ready or not an issue officially transfer the technology for Chinese production of the Pfizer vaccine. So there is no national security. It’s ours. What’s not Sheriff cat out of bag. It is now my honor to say nothing of the two mRNA vaccines to Chinese scientists have created their own final trials that are indigenous to China. So it is now my honor to introduce Avril Benoît. She’s the executive director of Doctors Without Borders, medicines son frontiers, MSF, another inspiring global deliverer of medical care and social justice. This is MSF you asked that I’ve realized the executive director of and it is my honor, Avril to turn the mic to you.

 

Avril Benoît 

Thanks very much. I feel like I’m in such a great company here. As many of you know, Doctors Without Borders or midsize cell phones yet MSF is an independent international organization. We deliver medical care to people in crisis in more than 70 countries. And every day, our medical humanitarian teams are seeing the effects of pharmaceutical corporations greed. And we do have deja vu here. MSF was on the frontlines of the peak of the HIV AIDS crisis back in the early 2000s. At a time when communities around the world were struggling to access antiretroviral treatments that they couldn’t afford. And people with AIDS were brought into our health centers in wheelbarrows, because there were no treatments to give them for their HIV and to prevent it from progressing. And at the same time, over in the US and Europe, people with HIV were on treatment living relatively normal lives. Pharmaceutical companies caused that inequity in care they refuse to share intellectual property to increase the supply of HIV AIDS medicines to make them affordable to everyone who needed them. And thanks to the tireless work of activists like all of us here, pushing back on the power of these companies, that antiretrovirals became widely available for a fraction of their original prices, saving millions of lives in the long run. In the meantime, Doctors Without Borders is still on the frontlines as we bear witness to another crisis that has devastated vulnerable communities. My colleague mama do a physician in Senegal said this fight against COVID-19 will go down as one of the most challenging of his medical career and in West Africa that saying something many MSF nurses and doctors working nonstop throughout this global pandemic feel the same way. Because in addition to the long hours in overwhelmed health centers in hotspots like Brazil or India, our teams have been and still are forced to try to treat patients and prevent this disease in communities. Without adequate COVID-19 tools. Fewer than 77%, as we heard earlier of people in low-income countries have received even a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and many don’t have access to tests. The longer we go without equitable access to COVID-19, vaccines, medicines and tests, the longer it’ll take to end this pandemic for all. Everything we do is profoundly affected by this pandemic right now, whether it’s directly related to COVID-19 or not. Every health worker that spends their time managing COVID-19 is as a result limited in the other kinds of health care they can provide and they can focus on and so that means less emergency obstetric surgeries, less nutrition services, less trauma care, less routine childhood vaccinations and less sexual and reproductive health services. So while our teams are struggling to provide COVID-19 and regular care for people excluded from health care because they’re in crisis, they’re in a conflict zone, what have you, the US has a surplus of tools to tackle COVID-19, including 500 million excess vaccine doses. We applaud the scientists and the researchers who worked to create these COVID-19 tools Great job, but it’s not enough to create them only for the global north, only for high income countries during a global pandemic intellectual property. These rules should not give companies total control over who gets to make COVID-19 vaccines, medicines and tests when they do get to make them how they make them which countries have access to them. Pharmaceutical companies have already made their choice. Only the highest bidders get adequate access, a decision that has made them billions of dollars while costing millions of lives. So now governments must make their choice and choose to stand on the right side of history. South African India put forward a proposal more than a year ago at the World Trade trade organization to waive intellectual property rules on COVID-19 medical products for the duration of the pandemic. And this proposal would allow other manufacturers to make more COVID-19 medical tools and help boost the supply faster. The proposal now has tremendous support from more than 100 countries, because they recognize that this pandemic won’t be over for anyone unless it’s over for everyone. Well, President Biden made a bold decision to support this ground breaking TRIPS waiver in May, we need the US to demonstrate the global leadership needed to make the waiver a reality. The Biden administration must lead the international community and adoption of the waiver at the 12th WTO ministerial conference next week. And it can’t just be for certain products like the vaccine. It has to also be for the medicines and diagnostics, all these things that we need for COVID-19 as well as the underlying technologies, the raw materials and other elements needed for additional manufacturers to help scale up this global supply. At MSF Doctors Without Borders, we know how ingrained inequity is in the COVID-19 response as it is in the larger medical research and development system. And that’s why we’re joining you in demanding that the Biden administration lead the international community in the adoption of the TRIPS waiver. This is the only way to ensure global access to all of the medical tools needed to end this pandemic. And the next one for everyone, everywhere. Thank you so much.

 

Lori Wallach 

Thank you very much Avril Benoît and for MSF’s work on these issues. And our next speaker I am honored to introduce is Pauline Muchina. Pauline is the Public Education and Advocacy Coordinator for the Africa region of the American friends Services Committee. And she also chairs a coalition of groups across denominations and across organizational groups on Africa, development, health and economic issues. Please, Pauline.

 

Pauline Muchina 

Thank you very much, Lori. And if you want anything done, get the women. So I want to say kudos to the women from Congress for joining us to get it done. Because we are now at the homestretch. When we are approaching the ministerial conference at the World Trade Organization, and on behalf of the organization, I work for the advocacy network for Africa that I chair, the COVID working group and the FSC, whom I work for, and you know many faith communities with whom we collaborate. I want to say that vaccine apartheid is inhumane and it is also unjust. So let us stop being inhumane towards billions of people around the world. It is vaccine apartheid when most of the people around the world who lacked vaccines are people of color in my own home country of Kenya 10% only 10% of the population has received vaccines, the rest of the haven’t, you know, and in some other African countries, only 4% of the people have received vaccines. Take also a country like Israel and Palestinian next door to each other vaccines, Israel has achieved almost full vaccination. Palestinians haven’t What do you call that? That is inhumane. So here today, we are here to call on President Biden to walk the talk. It is time to put his faith in practice, to put his humanity in practice, to put his heart in, in the eyes, and in the hearts of billions of people who are waiting for him to do something. negligence, an abdication of responsibilities of any world leaders, including those of Germany, the UK, Switzerland, Canada, you all those negligence and application are immoral. from a faith perspective, we cannot tolerate that. That’s why we are calling on them to show mercy, to show compassion to end this. We are a human family. We are one family. And we have a shared humanity shared security. So if we don’t vaccinate the rest of the world, we cannot rest easy. The inflation we are currently experiencing shows us that we can vaccinate the whole of United States, not all of Europe. But if we don’t vaccinate the rest of the world, the economy will not bounce back. It is also very clear that they are playing politics with people’s lives. You cannot continue to play politics and prioritize greed and profits for my pharmaceutical companies, while billions of people leave and they are exposed to a virus that can be treated pre Amin prevented within a few weeks. What will they say to the world if we cannot stop the pandemic, the pandemic is stoppable, the only thing preventing it to be stopped is greed is profit for my pharmaceutical companies. And therefore we are calling this world leaders to get off their high horses and challenge these pharmaceutical companies. This format is suitable companies do not run the world these leaders do so they need to do something immediately. We need to save billions of lives. Let us approve the TRIPS waiver at the World Trade Organization to save lives globally. Thank you very much.

 

Lori Wallach 

Thank you very much, Pauline, and you are a person I would like to have as a world leader. Thank you very, very much. Now, my honor to introduce Asia Russell, Asia Russell is the Executive Director of Health GAP, and has been a leading activist on access to medicines since the HIV AIDS last fight at the WTO for Global Access and the elimination of intellectual property barriers, Asia.

 

Asia Russell 

Thanks so much, Lori, and thanks to all of the speakers. I think the only thing that’s left to do is to tell a story of my organization Health GAP, has been working every day with directly impacted communities fighting the global AIDS pandemic since its founding in 1999. And there’s an important parallel here which several speakers have mentioned. That leads us right to today. In 2001 20 years ago, I participated in the WTO ministerial meeting in Doha, Qatar, because of international outcry at the time over deadly inequities, preventable inequities, in access to HIV treatment in Sub Saharan Africa and around the global south. These inequities were resulting in the preventable deaths of literally millions and millions of people, while world leaders were watching because of global outcry, including in the US, US trade negotiators with the entire world watching delivered on historic agreement on November 12 2001. That activism generated something called the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and public health. This declaration was critical in 2001 at a moment in history in action Celebrating Life Saving access to triple-combination HIV treatment in generic versions, despite patents that were held by pharmaceutical companies in various countries around the world, the US was pushed to play a leadership role 20 years ago because of outcry by a remarkable coalition of activists, not only in the US, but around the world. And who was president then it was George W. Bush, George W. Bush played an improbable role, because activists like Pauline, like Joya, like members of Congress, who have spoken to us, so many people, people who are dead now, in fact, stood up and called on George W. Bush to lead. That’s how we know it’s possible. That’s how we know it’s possible for the US not merely to talk but also to act if George W. Bush can do it, this administration can do it. So today, with days to go before the 12th ministerial meeting in Geneva, and more than 12 months since the TRIPS waiver proposal was put forward. Unfortunately, the Biden administration has not yet woken up, but we know that he can, and we know that he must. US negotiators told us on Friday that they are playing what they’re calling a facilitating role in responding to the impasse at the ministerial ahead of the ministerial meeting, what they are actually doing is enabling the outright obstruction of the European Union, Norway, the UK and Switzerland who are holding the process hostage. I don’t know about you, but enabling obstruction in some way is worse than obstruction itself. The reality as the administration knows is that the time for playing a facilitating role is over. That’s equivalent to carrying water for the pharmaceutical industry. And we know this administration was elected to do much better with 7.6 billion COVID vaccine doses administered, but fewer than 4% less than 4% of those given to people in low-income countries. With today, no country in Sub Saharan Africa, except for one Botswana on track vaccinate 40% of its population by the end of 2021, which is the global goal that this administration signed up for. We know the administration must stand up and must act every day, more than six times more boosters are administered globally than primary doses in low-income countries. That’s completely unacceptable. And right now hoarded doses will expire in the US and other wealthy countries before they’re made available on the frontlines of the global south where people are waiting in line literally watching their communities suffer and die without them. So leadership right now means expending all possible public political and diplomatic pressure to ensure that that sliver of minority opposition is confronted, is challenged and is dissolved. Otherwise, unfortunately, the failure to deliver a TRIPS waiver to crush COVID-19 will and should be laid at the feet of the Biden administration’s team, we know there’s still time for the administration to keep its promise, but only if it does more than merely expressed support for the TRIPS waiver. As I said, we know it’s possible George W. Bush had what it took to stand up to big pharma 20 years ago, and it’s improbable and frankly baffling. And more than that it’s an act of self-sabotage, for the Biden administration to stumble at the very moment when we need him to show what he’s capable of which is true and authentic leadership. We’ve seen the worst of humanity on display since the COVID 19 pandemic broke more than two years ago. And now you know, it’s time to see the best. Thank you.

 

Lori Wallach 

Thank you very much Asia. And it is my honor now to introduce our last speaker, Sara Nelson, who is the president of the Association of Flight Attendants, CWA AFL CIO. Sara Nelson is an inspiring labor leader. Sara, please.

 

Sara Nelson 

Thank you, Laurie. It is always an inspiration to spend time with the people who are here at this conference. And if you have been watching and you haven’t been moved by this, then you weren’t paying attention. I’m the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants are present flight attendants at 17 airlines 50,000 flight attendants, but I’m also a labor leader, who knows what labor has been through people who have been forced into meatpacking plants and treated as disposable nurses on the front lines who have who are fatigued and have been battling this and have been left now to try to deal with the conditions of COVID. Because we are sliding into pandemic fatigue, and believing that there is no longer any urgency that we can that nothing can be done, that the world is based on greed, not solidarity. And the truth is, I know as the Labour leader that an injury to one is an injury to all. That’s the truth. Many people have spoken about that truth here, that we cannot think about this as getting the vaccine just to certain countries, just to our own countries, we cannot think about this as only affecting our own communities, our own neighborhoods. Because as transportation workers, we know as flight attendants, we know the entire world is our workplace. And that is important on many levels. First, we are not going to end this pandemic, if we do not marshal all of our resources, and all of our efforts, and all of our leadership, to bring people together to remove all barriers, to production, to distribution, to technology transfer, to everything that is needed to end this pandemic. That is a must. And we have been having this conversation on the platform that assumes that we can’t break through greed, that we have to cajole the pharmaceutical companies into being better actors that we have to call on their moral compass, which is does not exist. But what does exist in humanity all around the world. I know as a flight attendant, is that people find meaning in their lives, when they can help other people, when they can lift them up. When they can feel that sense of solidarity in their own lives when they can accomplish something, working with other people, something great something that they could never do on their own. And that is the spirit that we have to understand is what truly drives humanity around the world. We see it everywhere we go is twice attendance. But I will tell you, we are less safe. When people question Where is the United States? Why is the United States not fighting for us? Why did President Biden say on May 5, and almost seven months later, that he supported this but hasn’t put every effort behind it to make it a reality. We know that if we don’t take the lead here, we are going to allow the dark forces of the earth to continue to thrive and grow bigger and bigger and help drive the idea that you’re on your own. You have to fight on your own that no one is going to be there for you. And therefore you shouldn’t be for anyone else. There is something bigger at stake here than indeed this pandemic itself is the very soul of our nation. It’s the soul of our world. And we need to call on the hearts and minds of the people around the world. To Marshal every effort and reject an idea, do not engage in any idea where we would fall prey to the phony charity of Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies who put out press releases saying that they are going to give all kinds of things to countries that play by the rules in their book that don’t challenge their omnipotence. I love what Pauline said. They are not the world leaders. President Biden, you are the world leader. And you’re seen as the leader of the free world. And it is time to use that power and the power of the people who elected you and the people who stand behind you and the workers who need your support around the world. The work the transportation workers who told me the day that you said that you supported this, but they could finally believe that there was some hope. The flight attendant from India, who says when I leave home, I don’t know if I’m going to come back and another family member is going to be debt. But you’ve given me hope today, President Biden, she sent that message to me to share it with you. It is time to make good on the promise that we are going to lead the world that America’s back So that is what has to be done. It’s what must be done. And we have to reject every time to say that this is a difficult issue that this is a wonky issue that people can understand this issue. This is an issue of whether we are going to act like human beings or not. And so we have to get this done. And we implored us to put every effort behind, marshalling a real effort to end this pandemic, and to show the world, the true hearts of Americans and all humanity, that we are stronger with solidarity together. It’s a force stronger than gravity when we put it to work. And we can do that right now. And we can topple all of the phony arguments and get through this and end this pandemic. Let’s do it together. Thank you.

 

Lori Wallach 

Sara Nelson, thank you so very much. And with my thanks to this entire panel, I’m going to open up questions and answers, please put your questions reporters into the question Notes section, and we will read them out and ask for answers. Again, thank you to everybody who participated in this panel, all the 40 organizations that did the petition work, and the 3 million Americans who are basically saying the same thing that this inspired panel is, so we have our first question. It is from Yuka Hayashi from the Wall Street Journal, “WTO’s Dr. Negozi, has been working hard to bring some kind of agreement on health and trade at MC 12. She’s also mentioned the difficulty of reaching agreement that doesn’t mention an IP waiver for vaccines. How do you assess her work? Has she been an effective leader of the WTO?” And I’m just gonna start by explaining a little bit of what I think you guys are getting at which there has been an incredibly cynical process pushed by the European Union, with a few other countries participating to issue a statement on trade and health. That is a statement suggesting that the answer to the pandemic is more tariff cuts and more deregulation, more of the same old same old on trade as compared to any kind of waiver of IP barriers. And the idea among some of those countries is to issue that declaration instead of having a WTO waiver, which is beyond cynical, that by shorthand is called the walker process, because it is the New Zealand Ambassador David Walker, who is pushing it. And what I will say Yuka is that there are some developing countries, important ones with whom I have spoken in the last week, who see that as so offensive, so disgusting, that they are begging the question of what would be the purpose of having any WTO ministerial at this moment, or any WTO ministerial outcome. If there is not a waiver, the number one thing the WTO has to do is get the hell out of the way of ending the pandemic. And anything like a cynical statement on trade and health that does not do that. And in fact, intentionally distracts from that outcome is not only incredibly objectionable, but also maybe is the final straw to whatever remaining legitimacy and relevance the WTO has as an institution. So to answer your question about what does it mean for the leadership? As we have heard from many of the speakers, it is a very bad luck right now for Western democracies, not delivering to help end the pandemic in the face of the ability to save billions of people’s lives. And the WTO as an institution could be one of the victims of the COVID crisis if it does not get the hell out of the way with this waiver. And if anyone else wants to answer that question, we have another one that’s coming from Roll Call. Anyone else want to join on that? All right, Roll Call Emily from Roll Call is asking. “Can you respond to the claim that the US booster policy does not impact global supply? Do you have a sense for how many US dosers may be at risk of expiring?” and we have a second question that’s come in that is about generally supply “Why is a waiver needed to ensure ongoing supply?” Who would like to answer that question?

 

Dr. Joia Mukherjee 

Yeah, I mean, I’ll just chime in because I had said something about boosters. I mean, yes, boosters do impact the supply and we should be expediently getting as many shots as we can to countries who have such low numbers of vaccinated people. But the issue isn’t really boosters. because if we had done the patent waiver, the transfer of technology, the investments and factories, this would be a non-issue. So, so in the short term, yes, we should be getting all these expiring doses, and there are millions of them. And I don’t have the data on that, but someone inevitably does. But I think that the, you know, and, and boosters, etc. But that’s not the real problem. And so I think we’re we’re focusing on something that is not really the real problem, the real problem is the lack of mass production at scale at a scale needed to end the pandemic. And, and that that’s what I take issue with. But I’m sure others have more detailed numbers.

 

Asia Russell 

For you, if I could come in on that for just one moment. I think what the data point to is the risk that millions of doses could expire before they reach arms in the US and in other wealthy countries. And it’s absolutely correct at this point. The issue is not boosters, detracting from a sufficiency of supply. The issue is that all available mechanisms to expand the number of doses available should have been deployed. And that’s what must happen now. So there doesn’t need to be a false choice between access to boosters, and a TRIPS waiver. On the contrary, the people who are suffering the most concentration of immune-compromised, live outside of wealthy countries, the people who most qualified for boosters are people who haven’t had a primary shot. So what we’re talking about is not pitting those in need of boosters against those who need primary shots, but putting lives ahead of intellectual property rights protections and enforcements.

 

Lori Wallach 

Thank you very much, Pauline.

 

Pauline Muchina 

So I think there are two things, when we come to think about whether boosters are impacting the global supply. Remember, the boosters in the United States will probably be in the millions. Remember, we are looking for billions of vaccines. So and there is no way that three companies in the United States are going to make billions of vaccines overnight, or within even six months to be able to cater for the billions of people who are waiting for them. So therefore, the booster conversation is important, but I think it is distracting us from the goal, which is to produce billions of dollars in the next few months. And the only way to do that is to share technology and to enable multiple of manufacturing companies to manufacture vaccines globally, so that we can cover billions of dollars. And as far as the role of WTO. I’ll go back to that because I want to defend my sister, you know, Dr. Ngozi, that responsibility of passing the treats waiver that went lies solely on, you know, lies on the countries that make decisions because they vote, you know, at the WTO. If she doesn’t have voted from these countries, especially those who have been refusing the TRIPS waiver because of the pharmaceutical companies, she is not going to get the votes. So don’t blame Ngozi. Blame the countries that are standing in her way of making this done. Thank you.

 

Lori Wallach 

That’s a very good clarification. And I stand by that because it’s clear there are three kinds three WTO members blocking the whole process. But the liability could be the whole WTO system. If those countries don’t get the hell out the way Avril.

 

Avril Benoît 

Thank you. Sorry about that. I just was reminded though, of course, what the former CDC Director Tom Frieden recently pointed out that vaccine makers have not made their production pledges, real access to the most effective vaccines will continue to be limited and we should be very skeptical of all the promises that are made because there just isn’t a track record it maybe they tried in all earnestness but they didn’t make it and at the moment there is no plan to make enough doses to meet 70% of the global vaccination goal by September 2022. And President Biden recently pledged at the United Nations that that would be the goal. And it’ll take some time, even if we have the TRIPS waiver immediately at this Ministerial Conference. In a recent analysis, Doctors Without Borders or MSF model to scenario where within 10 months facilities on the African continent that produce injectable medicines could be repurposed, to begin producing up to 100 million mRNA vaccine doses annually. And for this to happen, of course, the TRIPS waiver must be passed and existing vaccine producers would need to share that technical know-how, with the full force of all their capacity. So even just that is going to be incredibly complex. The waiver is absolutely a precondition of anything moving forward.

 

Lori Wallach 

Thank you very much. And I want to thank the speakers for staying on an extra 10 minutes and the reporters as well. I want to thank everyone for their participation. There will be a link to the video of this news conference for any outlets that would like to take snips of it, there will be a transcription of this news conference and there’ll be information for how to get in touch with all of the speakers as well linked to the map of all the events happening around the world. There are events in seven US cities and Buenos Aires in Melbourne, Sydney, Jakarta, Islamabad, Cape Town, Vienna, Paris, Dublin, Belfast, Madrid, it goes on and on. So thank you all for your participation. This is the moment that people around the world are relying on the Biden administration to step up and deliver this waiver. Again, thank the press. I think the participants a news release will be coming out with some statements with the transcripts with the link to the video. Thank you all so very much for participating today. And the bottom line is we are going to get this done at this ministerial. But if we don’t, no one’s going away. This is going to be a fight until we get the access that is needed to end the pandemic. Thank you all very much.