Nurses worldwide call out S’pore, rich nations for hoarding vaccines

Bottles of “COVID-19 Vaccine.” Photo: Brano
Bottles of “COVID-19 Vaccine.” Photo: Brano

Nursing unions representing over 2.5 million healthcare workers globally are putting pressure on rich nations like Singapore to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents so more countries can manufacture them. 

As another mutation emerges in an under-vaccinated part of the world, nurses in the Philippines, South Korea, and elsewhere accuse Singapore, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Switzerland, and Norway of protecting big pharmaceutical companies at the expense of people’s lives.

“This is a clear violation of our right to health – of nurses, caregivers, and patients. So we are now taking them to court,” the petition page said. “We demand an urgent investigation into the obstruction of the waiver by these Covid-19 criminals.”

The petition, led by Global Nurses United and Progressive International, hopes to collect 100,000 signatures for it to reach the United Nations. An attached letter addressed to Tlaleng Mofokeng, special rapporteur on physical and mental health, asks her to investigate those countries’ inaction and whether they may violate states’ rights to physical and mental health. 

“This unequal distribution of vaccines is not only grossly unjust for the people in low- and moderate-income countries who remain at high risk for contracting and further transmitting COVID-19, it also provides for the possibility for the development of new variants, some of which may be resistant to the current available vaccines,” said the letter, signed by unions from 28 countries. 

Singapore procured vaccines from companies Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Sinovac.  

The petition came amid stalled negotiations between World Trade Organization member countries to temporarily waive the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights agreement. 

Pfizer and other makers have swung hard against opening up their profitable patents for use by others, particularly after U.S. President Joseph Biden came out in support of waiving their patents in May.

Talks began after India and South Africa proposed doing so to boost global production.

“High-income countries have procured upwards of 7 billion confirmed vaccine doses, while low-income countries have only been able to procure approximately 300 million doses,” the letter added. 

Singapore has vaccinated 85% of its population of over 5 million people and has begun rolling out booster shots. 

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