On June 8 it was held at the museo Bicentenario- in Casa Rosada, Buenos Aires – the International Forum on “Geopolitics of vaccines”.
There was a greater consensus among the participants: there is both a moral and a pragmatic obligation to share vaccines, affirmed sanitarians, scientists, scholars and public decision-makers.
The seizure of vaccine against Covid-19 by the most developed countries, the urgent challenge of improving vaccines distribution, the need to achieve this objective that has the potential to boost the global recovery of the economy were some of the main topics of the speakers of the event that was held at the museo del bicentenario, event thathad the participation of leading international experts(some by videoconference).
The event was an activity organized by theEconomic and Social Council, a recent multisectoral advisory council its chairman Gustavo Beliz– Secretary of Strategic Affairs of Argentina-realized the opening speech of the event with the following statements:
“In a war, the first objectives are the bridges“
And he also pointed out that for that reason it is not possible to “allow universal health and the health of Argentina to become a war in which bridges are destroyed.”
In this sense, Beliz remarked that “health social justice is the basic concept that is encouraging us to convene this panel, and what encourages us is the spirit of building bridges.”
Beliz also highlighted the diversity of the call with the participation of representatives from different social sectors such as business, academics and scientists and public officials from different countries. In this regard, he said that the event followed the guidelines of the Argentine government of having a diplomacy “without ideological borders”.
The prominent economist Mariana Mazzucatocontinued with the event. Mazzucatois a Professor at University London College and director of its Institute of Innovation and Public Purpose (and she is also an advisor to the Argentine Social and Economic Council) with the presentation: “the challenge of a universal vaccine” in which she argued that it is essential to change the current social contract between industry, academia and governments, so that the Common Goods will not only become corrections of market failures, but a true ontological objective, and she ended her participation by remarking her hope that the Covid-19 vaccine may be a historical turning point to exercise capitalism in a different way.
The international forum continued with the panel discussion: “equitable global distribution of vaccines”:
- Richard Hatchett CEO of CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) He stated that vaccination at international level is not only a moral issue, but also a pragmatic one: it is not only the deaths caused by the virus, but also the persistence of the economic disturbance as well as the appearance of new virus variants. Finally, he highlighted the promising positive impulse regarding global vaccination in the instances of the G-7 and G-20.
- Santiago Cornejo director of GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccination)proposed a comprehensive approach scheme to face the current pandemic as well as those of the future that it would imply: the presence of permanent multilateral mechanisms (in the style of COVAX) for the coordination of global actions, the reform of intellectual property rights that facilitate the transfer technology and know-how, financing mechanisms that allow promoting R&D at the local level to strengthen the capacity to manufacture vaccines laterally.
- Carissa EtienneDirector of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)highlighted the relevance of the event at the regional level, especially in a global context in which high-income countries have administered 67 times more doses than low-income countries. In the context of the shortcomings that the pandemic has exposed, especially with regard to the abandonment of scientific and technological development policies in recent years in the region, she put equity first as the guiding principle to guide the response and the challenges of the access to vaccines and medical technology in general. In order to close the inequality gap, Etienne detailed PAHO’s efforts to promote the increase in vaccine production capacity in the Americas and advocated joint work among PAHO member states as a key to advancing towards development, production, and access to vaccines with equity.
Then the following panel discussion dealt with “implication of licenses and vaccine production” whose main speaker was Antony Taubman, director of Intellectual Property of the World Trade Organization (WTO), highlighted that patents “are political tools and should be subordinate to the public interests .”thus he pointed out that one of the main arguments of the great laboratories and the countries that reject the exemption, based on a defense of patents as an incentive to innovation and the production of vaccines. Taubman also indicated that the temporary lifting of intellectual property “could open the way to a huge range of solutions” to fight the pandemic, although he clarified that by itself it does not solve the lack of immunizers and their current unequal access.
In the dialogue panel on “Inter-ministerial dialogue, sharing of data and health strategies” the Minister of Health of Argentina, Carla Vizzotti, and the presidential advisor Cecilia Nicolini shared a dialogue with the Minister of Vaccination of the United Kingdom, Nadhim Zahawi. The speakers highlighted the importance of cooperation initiatives between countries, especially in relation to the development, production and distribution of vaccines against COVID-19.
Vizzotti gave a brief account of the health strategies of the Argentine public health ministry for the current vaccination campaign against Covid-19 and its outcomes, she also affirmed: “the vast majority of the Argentine population has confidence in the vaccine and we are working to bring vaccination closer to the population, in what constitutes a great effort”.
Meanwhile, Cecilia Nicolini gave an account of Argentina’s capacities to respond to the pandemic from vaccination with a combined strategy that includes the design and local development of vaccines, the acquisition (via importations) from agreements with different producers. All this different methods with the perspective of promoting initiatives that can expand and ensure access to vaccines to other countries in the region.
The Argentine president, Alberto Fernández, gave the final speechof the event(througha recorded video message).He highlighted the importance of the event and that the geopolitics of vaccines: “uncovers a world power map plagued by abuse, greed and injustices “, but that“also offers a road towards cooperation “. And he also referred to the leading role of Argentina regarding the productive capacity of vaccines in the South-American region. “From this global humanitarian disaster, we will only come out better if we understand that solidarity is not an option, but an obligation“, the head of State concluded.