Leaders worldwide demanded on Thursday that any COVID-19 vaccine and treatment should be free and available to everyone.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, together with more than 140 world leaders signed a letter insisting any COVID-19 vaccine should not be patented.
The World Health Assembly, the policy-setting body of the UN’s World Health Organization, will hold its annual general meeting next week.
The signatories of the letter appealed to the WHA to support the cause.
“Governments and international partners must unite around a global guarantee which ensures that, when a safe and effective vaccine is developed, it is produced rapidly at scale and made available for all people, in all countries, free of charge,” the letter said.
“The same applies for all treatments, diagnostics, and other technologies for COVID-19.”
The letter was signed by Senegalese President Macky Sall and Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo.
Former presidents and prime ministers among the signatories included Shaukat Aziz, Jan Peter Balkenende, Jose Manuel Barroso, Gordon Brown, Helen Clark, Felipe Gonzalez, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Aleksander Kwasniewski, Mary McAleese, Olusegun Obasanjo, and Juan Manuel Santos.
Officials and health experts were furious with France after pharmaceutical giant Sanofi said it would reserve the first shipments of any COVID-19 vaccine for the United States.
Sanofi chief executive Paul Hudson the US, would get the first dibs because it was helping to fund the vaccine research.
African Union Chairperson Ramaphosa said: “As the countries of Africa, we are resolute that the COVID-19 vaccine must be patent-free, rapidly made and distributed, and free for all.
“Nobody should be pushed to the back of the vaccine queue because of where they live or what they earn.”
Only COVID-19 vaccine can bring back ‘normalcy’- UN Chief
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier said a COVID-19 vaccine might be the only solution to bring back “normalcy.”
“A safe and effective vaccine may be the only tool that can return the world to a sense of ‘normalcy,’ saving millions of lives and countless trillions of dollars,” he added.
He also said the COVID-19 vaccine should be accessible to all, must have a “universal global benefit,” and “allow us to control the pandemic.”
“We need an ambitious effort to ensure that international stakeholders operate through a harmonized, integrated and leveraged approach to maximize the speed and scale needed for the universal deployment of such a vaccine by the end of 2020,” Guterres insisted.