On April 13, fifty activists from Latin America met virtually to agree on joint actions to demand universal access to Covid19 vaccines from the pharmaceutical industry, international agencies and producing countries, as has already been done, for example, by Doctors Without Borders and a group of scientists and Nobel Prize winners in various fields of science to the U.S. government, regarding the release of patents.
This activity was convened by activist Richard Stern from Costa Rica and had the logistical and conceptual support of Oxfam International. Representatives of organizations from Honduras, Guatemala, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and Costa Rica, among other countries, participated. In this way, they will increase advocacy work to overcome the existing inequity in access to this medicine in the region.
Countries such as Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay, El Salvador, Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador as of this update (April 24) still have not been able to vaccinate even 2% of the population. Most others except for Uruguay and Chile, remain below 10%.
Individuals and organizations interested in joining this working group can contact Stern by e-mail: [email protected] or join the WhatsApp group implemented just for this purpose at the link: https://chat.whatsapp.com/E8hrcBoqbOn8OnT71yWC8k.
Richard Stern, in a summary email of this first meeting coauthored by Pablo Rivero of Oxfam, said that the participants recognized “in common the critical situation and concerns about access to vaccines, but also issues related to corruption, opacity of information, the absence of guarantees for the respect of the rights of vulnerable groups, including, but not limited to, people with HIV, sex workers and immigrants, among others”.
Stern and Rivero added that other issues discussed were the possible side effects of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as the lack of interest and adequate infrastructure in the vaccination process by the health systems of each country, and that the underlying problem is linked to the acquisition and distribution of these drugs.
From Costa Rica, Richard Stern and Oxfam took the initiative to convene activists in Latin America to start a movement for universal access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Stern and Rivero explained that three areas of action were proposed at the meeting: Lobbying and advocacy in high-level spaces (such as the sub-regional blocs in Central America and the Andean Health Organization), with special focus on the United Nations General Assembly (UNGASS); maintaining a common regional vision and disseminating messages in international spaces, such as the World Health Organization, UNAIDS and the World Trade Organization, for example; and focusing on actions linked to transparency and prioritizing the different national plans, but with emphasis on the short term regarding the availability and acquisition of vaccines.
In this way, the activists explained that the group will have as strategic considerations: to demand safe and timely vaccines against COVID in a universal manner; to recognize that, despite the diversity of contexts, in all Latin American countries the situation is critical regarding this vaccination; to make common actions visible and strengthen a common message; to agree on a joint statement for the international community; and to access the technical and conceptual support offered by Doctors without Borders and Oxfam International and others to advance in this campaign.
The activists pointed out that, due to the confinement and quarantine measures in the countries of the Region, it is difficult to agree on actions such as protests outside pharmaceutical companies, embassies or ministries of health, but that, for the same reason, these face-to-face activities should be combined with pressure through digital media, mass media and social networks “to push for popular support” regarding the need to release the patents on COVID vaccines for their production and distribution in a fair and equitable manner.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)