Global Access to Vaccines in Response to COVID-19

  • Date / 2021
  • Location Ratified / Online
  • Ratifying Body / General Assembly
  • Status / Current

Proposed by the Board of Humanists International


That humanists advocate for the application of the methods of science and free inquiry to the problems of human welfare, and that the application of science and technology be tempered by human values.

That humanists support human rights and aim at the fullest possible development of every human being, holding that human development itself should be a human right.

That every person has a right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, including access to immunization programmes against the major infectious diseases.

That every person has a right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress, without discrimination, which includes access to all the best available applications of scientific progress necessary to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health.

That States have an obligation to take all the measures necessary, to the maximum available resources, to guarantee access to vaccines for COVID-19 to all persons, without discrimination.

The United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution on Ensuring equitable, affordable, timely and universal access for all countries to vaccines in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic (A/HRC/RES/46/14), and the Statement by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on universal and equitable access to vaccines for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) (E/C.12/2020/2).

Recognizing that:

The accelerated development and approval of several vaccines against COVID-19 within a short amount of time has been an unprecedented scientific achievement;

The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the urgent need to ensure equitable access to scientific information so as to better ensure science- and knowledge-based decision making to respond to global emergencies;

The way to save the most lives is to prioritise vaccination for those who are the most vulnerable to the virus, not only because it would do the most to limit deaths, but also because it would help stop the spread of mutations.

Equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines is undermined by some states arranging bilateral deals with pharmaceutical companies, and stockpiling more doses than they need;

Equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines is also threatened by intellectual property laws enabling privately-owned pharmaceutical corporations to not disclose the scientific methods behind vaccine production, rendering countries wholly dependent on purchasing vaccines from developers, at the prices set by them;

The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator initiative has been developed with the aim of accelerating development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines to all countries;

The COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility has been established with the aim of helping ensure an equitable global distribution of vaccines to all States;

The suppression or denial of scientific evidence by some political and religious leaders, and reluctance to adapt evidence-based policies, have magnified the devastating harms the pandemic has generated;

The anti-vaccine movement, fuelled by anti-establishment populism downplaying the risk of COVID-19 or advocating treatments without a scientific basis, has contributed to the erosion in trust in public health institutions and to a crisis of vaccine-related misinformation;

There have been cases of scientists being censored or prevented from speaking freely, and public health officials being subjected to threats and attacks.

Recommends the international community, States and other relevant stakeholders to:

Adopt transparent, equitable, universal and participatory mechanisms that ensure that prioritization in the global distribution of vaccines is based on medical need and public health considerations;

Take immediate steps to prevent speculation, national stockpiling and undue export controls which inhibit the equitable, affordable and universal access for all countries to COVID-19 vaccines;

Assist developing countries in promoting the full realization of the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and the right of everyone to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications;

Support funding for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator and its mechanisms, such as the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility;

Provide vaccine data to the World Health Organization at the same time as other regulators;

Prevent intellectual property and patent legal regimes from undermining the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by, for example, making critical public goods, such as vaccines or medicines, inaccessible to developing countries or impoverished communities because of unreasonable cost structures;

Protect health care workers and public health officials from attacks and threats, and fully investigate any such attacks or threats if they occur, bringing perpetrators to justice in accordance with international standards;

Combat denial of science and of COVID-19’s existence, including by ensuring science and public-health education for all in accordance with relevant international standards;

Address the marginalization that causes people to turn to conspiracy theories and recognize that being open with information on side-effects, potential risks and effectiveness is essential to rebuilding trust in public bodies and countering misinformation;

Depoliticize the scientific response to the pandemic, focusing on fact-based and evidence-based policymaking so as to guarantee the right to science;

Ensure that marginalized and vulnerable communities, including refugees and undocumented
citizens, are not penalized or left behind in national vaccination plans.

Suggested academic reference

'Global Access to Vaccines in Response to COVID-19', Humanists International, General Assembly, Online, 2021

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