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A people’s vaccine: Survivors speak out

Coronavirus in world. Novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV. Concept of coronavirus with flag of India. Illustration of COVID-19 case count. Coronavirus pandemic in India. Active COVID-19 cases. Image credit: Image credit: quatrox / 123rf. COVID-19 vaccine illustration. New COVID-19 cases concept.
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Those affected by COVID-19 spoke out in advance of a high-level United Nations meeting being held today regarding the ongoing pandemic, issuing a powerful demand for a “People’s Vaccine – not a profit vaccine.”

Signatories numbered at almost 1,000, encompassing people from 37 countries – including India – whose lives have been disrupted by the pandemic. Signatories include those infected with the novel coronavirus (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) or, simply, coronavirus), who survived; those who lost loved ones to COVID-19; and those with underlying conditions that amplify their risk of serious complications should they be infected. 

The open letter came in advance of a high-level meeting that will include the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres; World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; and various heads of state and government from across the globe. The event is entitled “Accelerating the end of the COVID-19 pandemic: taking new solutions to scale and making them equitably accessible, to save lives, protect health systems and restart the global economy”, being held on the sidelines of the 75th United Nations General Assembly meeting. 

The letter is addressed to “pharmaceutical industry leaders”, beginning by writing “as individuals from around the world who have survived COVID-19, bereaved relatives and people at increased risk from this virus, we are writing to you to enlist your support for a People’s Vaccine. In this unparalleled global pandemic, we can only ensure COVID-19 vaccines and treatments reach everyone who needs them by preventing monopolies, ramping up production and sharing knowledge. 

“Only this will make them a global common good. As leaders of the industry that is developing and preparing to manufacture vaccines, your cooperation in this life-saving endeavour is crucial.” 

The World Health Organization (WHO) and partner organisations have asserted their commitment to an accessible COVID-19 vaccine through COVAX, an initiative whose aim “aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.” Those directly affected by COVID-19 – be it through infection themselves, loss of loved ones, or elevated risk – deserve to have their voices heard.

“Our best chance of all staying safe is to ensure everyone who needs a COVID-19 vaccine gets one,” the letter reads. “This will only be possible if corporations like yours share knowledge so that a vaccine can be produced in vast quantities by as many manufacturers as possible. No single corporation will be able to make enough [vaccine doses] quickly enough to ensure it is available for all who need it. We need a People’s Vaccine – not a profit vaccine.”

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