UN Human Rights Council adopts resolution for equitable, affordable access to Covid-19 vaccines

UK nurse administering vaccine shot. (Credit: Keystone)

The United Nations Human Rights Council has adopted a resolution calling for equitable, affordable, and universal access to Covid-19 vaccines for all countries.

The resolution, put forward by Ecuador and Azerbaijan and supported by 133 member states, was adopted on Tuesday by consensus at the 46th session of the council, which concludes this week.

Speaking ahead of the resolution being adopted, Ambassador Vaqif Sadiqov of Azerbaijan said the Non-Aligned Movement, a group of 120 member states which put forward the text, expressed its “serious concern over the disparity in the distribution of vaccines against Covid-19 between developing and developed countries”.

He emphasised that the majority of all vaccines that have been administered to date have been concentrated in high-income countries while low-income countries still lag behind in gaining access to the vaccines.

“A global vaccination campaign to deal with the pandemic should be based on unity, solidarity, political will, and multilateral cooperation. Access to vaccines and treatments as global public goods is in the interest of all humanity,” he said.

The resolution text calls on states and other actors “to remove unjustified obstacles” restricting the export of Covid-19 vaccine and “to facilitate trade, acquisition, access and distribution.”

The move comes as several World Trade Organization (WTO) member states have continued to block a proposal by South Africa and India to waive intellectual property protections on Covid-19 drugs and treatments to help boost efforts to tackle to pandemic. Countries opposed to the proposal argue that waiving patents would hamper scientific development and innovation. The debate over intellectual property rights among WTO countries is still ongoing.

The resolution also requests that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights prepare a report about the status of global access to vaccines to be presented to the council next year.

Responding to the text’s adoption, Amnesty International’s health adviser, Tamaryn Nelson, said: “This resolution is yet another urgent reminder that vaccine access is a basic human right that every single person is entitled to.”

“States must cooperate to ensure vaccines are developed and manufactured in sufficient supply, and distributed in a timely and equitable manner around the globe. Businesses, especially the pharmaceutical industry, must live up to their human rights responsibilities and make every effort to ensure that vaccines are affordable and accessible to the maximum number of people worldwide.”