IWM Rector Shalini Randeria argues that we are currently witnessing vaccine-nationalism and geo-strategic rivalries around the Covid 19 vaccine, which has become the subject of soft power instead of being treated as a public good. The WHO has warned that the world is on the brink of a “catastrophic moral failure” on distributing vaccines. While high-income countries only have 16 percent of the world’s population, they currently hold 60 percent of the vaccine doses. Shalini Randeria questions whether pharmaceutical companies should hold patents to, and make profits from, vaccines that have been developed with public and philanthropic funding. Solidarity initiatives like Doctors Without Borders call for fair and affordable access to vaccines, including for countries in the Global South and stress that there can only be a global solution to this global pandemic. India and South Africa have been pushing the WTO to temporarily suspend intellectual property rights to make COVID-19 vaccines and other new technologies accessible for countries in the Global South. While high-income countries like the USA, Great Britain, but also the EU, which have signed Advance Purchase Agreements, are currently blocking this effort, Shalini Randeria calls for a temporary suspension of these patent rights and criticizes the blatant inequality in terms of fair distribution of intellectual property and vaccine doses.
For more insights from Shalini Randeria on this topic, we would recommend the article published by the Austrian national newspaper, der Standard where she argues the vaccination should be a global public good, as well as her contribution to our IWMpost.