With Omicron, it’s time for Canada to support global access to COVID vaccines – Canadian dimension
Government gifts are not very common. And even if it were, “no government is a Santa Claus,” as former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once said. As such, the likelihood of the federal government embracing philanthropy this holiday season seems highly unlikely.
However, it is high time that Ottawa made an exception to its freebie rule.
Indeed, for nearly two hellish years, Canadians battled a global pandemic, a pandemic that has left tens of thousands of deaths prematurely and caused unprecedented economic stress.
Now, with the emergence of the highly transmissible variant of omicron, the Trudeau government is expected to throw a lifeline to Canadians – and the world – by supporting a temporary suspension of intellectual property (IP) rights related to COVID vaccines.
According to latest statistics According to Our World in Data, only three percent of people in low-income countries are fully immunized. In several countries, such as Haiti, Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, less than one percent of the population is vaccinated.
Meanwhile, consider the situation in the relatively wealthy Global North.
Like detailed by Oxfam, “Rich countries representing only 14% of the world’s population bought 53% of all the most promised vaccines,” while still more 73% of all vaccines went to just 10 countries, leaving the remaining 27% to disputed by the rest of the world.
The difference between rich and poor countries in the effective administration of doses is even more marked.
According to Oxfam, “rich countries administered 61 times more doses per capita than poorer countries and delivered only 14% of the 1.8 billion doses promised to poor countries.”
While there are many factors that have contributed to this global immunization gap (vaccine reluctance being one of them), the most important is the inability of low-income countries to ensure adequate supply of doses. .
Such inequality is not without consequences.
Due to insufficient access to vaccines, the poorest countries have had to deal with pandemic waves that are longer and more deadly than those experienced in the countries of the North. This has proved crippling both for their national economies and for the health care infrastructure.
In addition, due to lack of access to widespread vaccination, the coronavirus has been allowed to replicate at a much higher rate in these countries. Rajiv J. Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, estimates that the new variants are “six to eight times more likely to come from less developed countries” simply because of their low vaccination rates.
As we have already seen, the emergence of more transmissible and potentially deadlier variants is of immense concern to every country, linked as they are by economic globalization and cross-border supply chain networks.
As of this writing, provinces like Ontario, Quebec and Prince Edward Island have introduced new public health measures to slow the spread of omicron in Canada. Many other provinces will likely follow suit soon, especially if the variant continues to spread with a doubling time of just over three days. If so, Canadians can reasonably expect high workloads, more travel restrictions, and a general atmosphere of anxiety, fear and uncertainty.
As Nobel Laureate in Economics Joseph Stiglitz wrote, “New mutations in the virus will continue to cost lives and disrupt our interconnected global economy until everyone, everywhere, has access to a vaccine. safe and effective ”.
That brings us back to the solution at hand.
Canada’s support for waiving intellectual property protections on COVID-19 vaccines would be a critical step in accelerating the manufacture, distribution and administration of vaccines globally.
It has been more than a year since South Africa and India drafted a waiver at the World Trade Organization (WTO) calling for the suspension of patents on COVID vaccines. But the proposal has met with constant opposition from rich countries, including the United States, Canada and the European Union.
Defenders of renunciation – more than 120 governments and counting – argued convincingly that it could “unlock the strong manufacturing capacity and capacity that exists around the world to increase vaccine production” and administration, especially in low-income countries. Not only would this help save lives, but it would also accelerate the global economic recovery, while stifling the replication of deadly variants of COVID.
Of course, waiving intellectual property rights alone will not solve the problem of vaccine inequity. Reluctance to immunize and other logistical obstacles will persist to speed up inoculations in various parts of the world.
Yet, as former Irish President Mary Robinson wrote, “waiver remains the necessary precondition for increasing and redistributing the global supply of vaccines and other vital tools.”
So far, however, Ottawa has hesitated to take a position on the matter, perhaps believing that supporting the waiver would reduce the huge profits made by the handful of drug companies that currently control intellectual property rights.
Indeed, the Global North has allowed fears of pharmaceutical retaliation to hinder the establishment of an international consensus and the implementation of a rescue and elimination initiative for the pandemic.
It can’t hold up any longer.
In order to speed up global vaccinations, eliminate “vaccine apartheid” and dramatically reduce the proliferation of deadly variants, the Canadian government should immediately announce its support for the WTO’s temporary vaccine waiver. It is both the safe thing to do and the right thing to do, both for Canadians and for citizens of the world.
The federal government may never be a Santa Claus, but by supporting the waiver this holiday season, it can at least help but become the scooge of this story.
Wyatt James Schierman is a freelance writer from Alberta and a regular columnist for Loonie Politics. His writings have also appeared in the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Star, Calgary Herald, Huffington Post Canada, and The Hill Times. When not writing, Wyatt travels abroad as an election observer.