World leaders demand free coronavirus vaccine for all

Online Desk : World leaders past and present insisted on
Thursday that any eventual COVID-19 vaccines and treatments should be made
available to everyone, free of charge.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran
Khan were among more than 140 signatories of a letter saying any vaccine
should not be patented while the science should be shared between nations.

The World Health Assembly, the policy-setting body of the UN’s World Health
Organization, holds its annual general meeting next week.

The signatories called on the WHA to rally behind 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.

The letter comes amid fury in France after pharmaceutical giant Sanofi said
it would reserve first shipments of any COVID-19 vaccine for the United
States.

The French multinational’s chief executive Paul Hudson said the United
States would get first dibs because its government was helping to fund the
vaccine research.

His comments drew outrage Thursday from officials and health experts.

The letter ahead of the WHA said it was not the time to leave the task of
resolving the pandemic to market forces or let the interests of wealthy
companies and governments come before the need to save lives.

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.”

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