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MoCs, Civil Society and Labor Leaders Urge Biden to Launch Global Plan to End Pandemic at Next Week’s UN Summit

Summit Must Deliver on Policies Needed to End Pandemic — Waiver of WTO Intellectual Property Barriers, Technology Transfer and Funding for Global Production of COVID Medicines — Vaccine Donations Will Not Cut It

For Immediate Release: Sept. 14, 2021
Contact: Derrick Robinson, drobinson@citizen.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ahead of the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) heads of state summit, members of the U.S. Congress, a South African government official, and heads of labor, faith and health organizations today detailed why President Joe Biden’s leadership in delivering a waiver of WTO intellectual property barriers, technology transfer to speed production by sharing vaccine recipes and funding for production of COVID medicines around the world is essential to ending the pandemic.

In the months since Biden’s historic support for a waiver of World Trade Organization (WTO) monopoly barriers to greater COVID-19 vaccine production, little progress has been made. White House COVID Czar Jeffrey Zients has yet to unveil a global plan as the delta variant, first detected in India where vaccines are scarce, is now raging worldwide.

UNGA and Biden’s global COVID-19 summit will be successful only if the president uses them to get the WTO waiver done, require vaccine recipes be shared via broad tech transfer to speed expansion of COVID-19 medicine supplies, and move funding for greatly expanded global production.

Video of today’s event is available here. A transcript will be available shortly here.

Statements from speakers:

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)
“The delta-driven third wave of COVID-19 that is underway right now underscores the absolute urgent need to act to end the pandemic worldwide. And this is a moment of opportunity — it actually can happen. And President Biden can act now at his special COVID-19 summit that is being held in conjunction with the UN General Assembly that started today. On May 5th, President Biden showed the courage and the incredible foresight in declaring his support for a temporary waiver of the World Trade Organization TRIPS rule, calling for the temporary pause of a complete monopoly power of the current vaccine makers, particularly Pfizer and Moderna. Intellectual property rights would be temporarily suspended and countries would have access to the recipe and the know-how to quickly manufacture millions of doses of vaccines and save millions and millions of lives… Numerous nations began asking for this TRIPS waiver in October of 2020, and yet today, there is a horrifying shortage of vaccine. We know that. The United States must at this time exert leadership now and save millions and millions of lives around the world, including lives that are at stake here at home in the United States. This is the moment. Please, President Biden, we are so grateful to you. The world was rejoicing when you said that you were in favor of a waiver, that you were willing to put people over the profits of the pharmaceutical companies and now is the moment.”

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.)
“While we have made enormous strides vaccinating the United States population, that simply is not enough. We have a moral responsibility to step up and lead, to share what we have learned, and do everything we can to alleviate the suffering around the world and end this pandemic. That is why I will continue to support the decision made by President Biden to temporarily waive some of the world’s intellectual property rules at the WTO to increase the global production and supply for coronavirus vaccines. Now it is time for him to act — to deliver on his historic support. As the UNGA heads of state summit begins, President Biden’s leadership is essential to help end this pandemic. That means prioritizing people over pharmaceutical profits and ensuring that a vaccine is a global common good.”

Zane Dangor, Republic of South Africa, Special Advisor to the Foreign Minister
“We do know that the EU has expressed this week that they are not keen for an outcome on the TRIPS waiver proposal at the upcoming ministerial council and would like to kick this discussion further down the road, to way after the upcoming ministerial. The US in Geneva, at the WTO, has expressed support for an outcome at the upcoming ministerial so already we’re seeing action by the US side, but we need out of next week’s summit and the deliberations this week, commitment on a text from the US that can be tabled and negotiated with South Africa, India and other co-sponsors so we can have an outcome and get to the business of actually ensuring we get jabs in arms of those that need it most and we have equitable access. And in the long term, we change the asymmetrical nature of vaccine production and consumption globally.”

Dr. Joia Mukherjee MD, MPH, Partners In Health, Chief Medical Officer
“Our ability to work in solidarity is a test. This is a test of our ability to collaborate as a globe and do things morally in the best interest of humanity. The big test looming before us is climate change. These things, like pandemics, hunger, unemployment, migration, these are all linked. It is really time to turn swords into plowshares. We cannot think of security in the 21st century as continuing a military build up, continuing endless wars. We need to take that money that we’ve spent, trillions of dollars – two billion a week for the war in Afghanistan alone – and put it into elevating the lives of all through medicine and science… In this crisis, the Biden administration has already led, and we are grateful for their [support for a] temporary waiver of TRIPS, but it’s a meaningless act unless we put funding into transfer of technology and local production and expanding the production capabilities in Africa, in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America. These places can do it, it’s a matter of financing, the procurement of raw materials and transfer of technology.”

Father Charles Chilufya, Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar, Director of Justice and Ecology
“While one in two or even more in the developed North are vaccinated, only one in 65 are vaccinated in Africa. There’s a vast difference. Despite the promises we have made before to be better prepared and do better in the next pandemic, COVID-19 has demonstrated that no lessons have been learned, as we watch a deliberate repeat of past mistakes. We have seen how malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS, which were once called global pandemics, have now become endemic to poorer regions like Africa. What is more disturbing in all of this is that this is about human life, this is about affront to human dignity. I know my fellow Catholic Joe Biden appreciates this. I’d like to thank him for his leadership for favoring the TRIPS waiver. That’s a movement in the right direction. We believe that global leaders have power to do the right thing, but at present have chosen not to. But we believe that with his leadership, President Joe Biden can move other leaders for the first time to learn from history and respect life, respect human dignity, and understand the fact that this is about children dying, this is about children losing both of their parents and remaining vulnerable as orphans, this is about health workers who are left unprotected. It’s human life at stake. We would like to appeal to President Biden to continue to show good example and mobilize the leaders to respect life, to respect human dignity.”

Sara Nelson, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, President
“This is a worker issue. Our workplace is the entire world. And so the world leaders who are standing in the way of making sure we are mobilizing every effort to remove all roadblocks to get this vaccine to every single person, to distribute that, to produce it, I would like to ask them: where to you think your flight attendants are going when they go to work? This cannot be centralized in a specific country, you cannot hide your face, you cannot put your head under the covers. I just spent the weekend going to 20-year remembrances of September 11th. What this reminds me of is that [flight attendants] went to work on the morning of September 11th. We were told up to that point that we needed to comply, we needed to keep everyone calm. We were given the exact wrong training to meet the crisis we were facing that day. It was flight attendants on the front line as first responders who got us some of the intelligence that day that made its way to Flight 93. On the flight there was a representation of every gender, race, culture and creed. On that plane, it looked like a representation of people from around the world. In a moment’s time, they were just one force against a threat that was threatening their lives and the rest of ours on the ground. They immediately mobilized in an hour’s time, with good information – and we have had good information for a good amount of time here, to take action against this major threat against all of us around the world: against our jobs, our economic security, our families, our communities, the threats that we face at work. In a moment’s time they acted together and they saved the rest of our lives. That’s the same thing that we can do now. Flight attendants around the world, President Biden, we want to inject back to you as you meet the rest of the leaders around the world, that we come with you with great respect to marshal a global response to end this pandemic. We need you to do this for workers, we need you to do this for every community, we need you to do this because this is what the human spirit does when it’s up against a threat. We’ve seen it time and time again, we know you’re the leader to do it, and we’re with you all the way.”

Lori Wallach, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, Director
“The mismatch to date between the crisis we face and world leaders’ failure to deliver on the concrete actions needed to end the pandemic is disastrous and unacceptable. The delta variant foreshadows what a future of endless pandemic would look like, with the lack of vaccination causing outbreaks and breeding more dangerous variants in an endless cycle of death and economic hardship. That is a future that is entirely unacceptable. With the UN General Assembly starting today, President Biden has a powerful opportunity to change that and to end the pandemic. Ending the pandemic is a political choice. The world has the technical, the medical, the financial means to vaccinate the world and end the pandemic. There are three clear steps: getting intellectual property monopoly barriers out of the way through a temporary WTO TRIPS waiver, technology transfer through sharing the recipes that the current monopoly producers have, and funding for the necessary global production so that people around the world are not reliant on a few monopoly sources.”