Advocacy statements

COVID-19 and vaccine equitability

  • Date / 2021
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention


International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN Human Rights Council, 46th Session (22 February to 23 March 2021)

General Debate on Item 4

Thank you Madame President

My name is Dr Sangram Patil, I am a doctor and scientist.

Every person has a right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health,[1]  which includes access to immunization programmes against major infectious diseases.[2] Every person also has a right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress.[3]

The accelerated development and approval of several vaccines against COVID-19 within a short amount of time has been an unprecedented scientific achievement. We are deeply concerned however, that the global roll-out of the vaccine has the potential to leave many of the world’s poorest and most marginalized people behind.

While the COVAX initiative holds promise, it is at risk of being undermined by wealthy states arranging bilateral deals with pharmaceutical companies, and stockpiling more doses than they need.

‘Vaccine nationalism’ threatens herd immunity. We are a connected world and we all need to be safe for any of us to be safe.

Only compassion and solidarity, rather than nationalism and selfishness, are the way we will overcome the challenge ahead. The COVID-19 vaccine must be a global public good, and immunisation available to everyone, everywhere.

Thank you.


[1] International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, art. 12; Universal Declaration of Human Rights, art. 25.

[2] Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, general comment No. 14 (2000), para. 36.

[3] See International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, arts. 2, 12 and 15.

Suggested academic reference

'COVID-19 and vaccine equitability', Humanists International

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