Urgent Appeal to Ensure Equitable and Universal Vaccine Access

On April 21st, as a part of the International Network of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Network (ESCR-Net), CESR delivered a 63-page urgent appeal to Special Procedures at the United Nations, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The appeal seeks to compel governments, businesses and the World Trade Organization to meet their human rights obligations to ensure equitable and universal COVID-19 vaccine access. CESR contributed to this effort by drafting key sections of the appeal on maximum available resources, contributing to other critical sections and coordinating with ESCR-Net and members on strategy.

The appeal details the dire human rights impacts of vaccine inequality across many countries in the Global South, including those in which ESCR-Net members work, and how without immediate action the situation will likely get worse. It explains how the EU, the UK and US (along with pharmaceutical companies based in those countries) are blocking efforts by Global South governments in the World Trade Organization to secure a temporary waiver from certain provisions of the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement. The waiver would allow for vaccine starved countries to limit patents on vaccines during the pandemic so that they quickly begin producing additional supply of vaccines already on the market.

The appeal lays out the numerous legal human rights arguments for States to take steps to ensure universal and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, including by supporting the proposed TRIPS waiver at the WTO, and what they must do domestically to ensure equitable and timely vaccine access, especially for marginalized communities. The Special Procedures will transmit the appeal to the relevant governments, who will have an opportunity to reply to the issues raised.