MSF: US must step up its leadership on global COVID-19 response

An MSF nurse administers a COVID-19 vaccine

Lebanon 2021 © Tariq Keblaoui/MSF

NEW YORK/GENEVA, SEPTEMBER 21, 2021—As government leaders meet this week during the United Nations General Assembly to discuss the COVID-19 response—including during Wednesday’s White House Global COVID-19 Summit—Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is urging them to take more concrete actions to end this pandemic for everyone, everywhere.

As COVID-19 rages on in countries across the globe—including many in which MSF operates—people and governments are battling this pandemic without the vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics they need while others have more of these tools than they need. For example, fewer than two percent of people in developing countries have received even a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine while the US has secured enough doses to protect its entire population of 330 million people and still have more than half a billion vaccines left over.

To make sure people everywhere have access to critical and lifesaving medical tools, high-income countries, including the US, must immediately redistribute their excess vaccine doses to low- and middle-income countries via the COVAX Facility and regional procurement mechanisms. Secondly, the US government must demand Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to share COVID-19 mRNA vaccine technology and know-how so other able manufacturers can make additional mRNA vaccines and meet the global needs. Thirdly, all countries must support and stop blocking the "TRIPS waiver" proposal at the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property monopolies on all COVID-19 products during the pandemic.

Dr. Maria Guevara, MSF international medical secretary, said of the global COVID-19 response:

“The global response to the pandemic has failed to deliver equal and equitable access to date, with the world now divided into a limited number of countries where people can protect themselves from this killer disease, and the majority of countries where people are left vulnerable to it. The longer the world is divided into COVID-19 haves and have-nots, the longer the pandemic will drag on, the more variants can develop, and the more deaths and suffering will occur.

“In places where MSF works, we have witnessed the near-collapse of health systems under the burden of a disease which is now largely preventable. The dramatic lack of access to vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics in countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America is both devastating and unconscionable.

“As the world heads toward five million lives lost to COVID-19, high-income governments like the US need to urgently do three things so we can turn a corner on this pandemic: immediately redistribute their excess COVID-19 vaccines to low- and middle-income countries that continue to dramatically lag behind in vaccination coverage via COVAX or regional procurement bodies; use all their power to compel pharmaceutical corporations, including US-based Pfizer, to share mRNA technology and know-how with the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine Technology Transfer Hub in South Africa; and get behind the 'TRIPS waiver' that is supported by more than 100 countries at the World Trade Organization.

“Every day that goes by, another roughly 10,000 people are lost to this disease—what are governments with the power to change this horrific statistic waiting for?”