Global Access to COVID-19 Vaccines
With the development of COVID-19 vaccines within a year of the outbreak, science has scored an incredible achievement. The current challenge is to make these vaccines rapidly, fairly and equitably accessible to people around the globe. While wealthy countries have purchased vaccine doses, low- income countries lack the resources and lag behind. Intellectual property rights are an additional barrier that impedes timely access to vaccines in developing countries.
This vaccine nationalism or inequality could become, as head of the WHO, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, warns, a “catastrophic moral failure”. Moreover, the nature of the virus is such that until vaccines become available everywhere, new clusters will continue spreading. Therefore, global vaccine access should also be in the interest of wealthy countries.
To address these challenges, several international initiatives are underway. COVAX, a multilateral and multi-stakeholder initiative for distributing vaccines to low-income countries has been set up. There are also discussions about temporary waivers of certain provisions under the WTO TRIPS Agreement.
As co-chairs of the ‘Friends of the COVAX facility’, Switzerland and Singapore have taken on leadership roles. It is against this background that the NUS Centre for International Law and the Swiss Embassy in Singapore are delighted to cosponsor this panel, bringing together four distinguished speakers to address the challenges of global access to COVID-19 vaccines, current initiatives and potential solutions: Ms Martina Schwab, Co-Head of the Global Health Section in the International Affairs Division of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health; Mr Lionel Yee SC, Singapore’s Deputy Attorney General; Professor Prabhash Ranjan from the Faculty of Law at South Asia University, and Professor Suerie Moon at the Graduate Institute in Geneva and Director of the Global Health Centre. Dr Ayelet Berman, Lead of Global Health and Governance at CIL will moderate. Introductory remarks will be made by the Swiss Ambassador to Singapore, His Excellency Fabrice Filliez and Director of CIL, Dr Nilüfer Oral.