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Overview and analysis of Covid-19 initiatives

Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, multiple initiatives took off to ensure or improve global access to necessary medical innovations. The fast-changing landscape and diversity of these initiatives can make it difficult to keep track and to assess what responses are most critical in ending this pandemic and curb future health crises.

With this website, Wemos provides a go-to-source for decision-makers and other interested parties with an up-to-date overview and critical review of a wide variety of initiatives of public institutions.

Equal access to Covid-19 innovations

To date, we witness a devastating global divide between high-income countries and the rest of the world in terms of access to life-saving Covid-19 vaccines. This inequitable pattern will likely continue when other Covid-19 related innovations such as medicines and diagnostics enter the market.

These inequities are largely attributable to a system that enables pharmaceutical companies to monopolise their products. This gives them a free pass to market life-saving innovations completely on their own terms, without taking the global public interest into account – even though the development of these products is partly financed with taxpayers’ money.

As these companies pursue profit, most of them prefer to sell to countries that can pay high prices. During this pandemic, these wealthy countries unfortunately decided to buy up an excessive majority of the vaccines for themselves, leaving many low- and middle-income countries largely empty-handed.

Maintaining this inequitable situation is unacceptable, as it costs many lives, causes hardship and increasing economic damage and can lead to new, dangerous mutations of the virus. To effectively achieve equal access to medical products, initiatives to this end should focus on creating a system that serves the common interest instead of solely national or commercial interests.

Methodology

Wemos’ analysis is informed by the right to health, as stipulated in the Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO) and recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This refers to a universal minimum standard of health to which all individuals are entitled, regardless of ability to pay or geographical location. Access to healthcare including medicines are not special privileges but basic rights, established to ensure that everyone can live as healthy as possible. For this reason, vaccines and other health technologies should be considered public goods.

As part of Wemos’ mission, we hold the Dutch government, the EU and multilateral organisations accountable for their responsibility to realise everyone’s right of access to Covid-19 innovations. Therefore, we analysed initiatives that are set up by Dutch, European and global public institutions, and initiatives on which these actors have influence.

For the analysis of these initiatives, we applied a health equity lens. Health equity is achieved when everyone can attain their full potential for health and well-being. Health equity is the absence of unfair, avoidable or remediable differences among groups of people, including with regards to access to healthcare, vaccines and other health technologies. The focus of this analysis is inequalities in access between countries. We have looked at the (mal)distribution of power and structural solutions to realising equitable and sufficient access to Covid-19 innovations as fast as possible. This has resulted in the five dimensions for our assessment of the initiatives: sufficiency, urgency, sustainability, power balance and public first.

Almost every initiative analysed has strengths and weaknesses. On the homepage we highlighted some of the strengths and weaknesses that stood out most for us from a health equity lens. The initiatives are presented in no particular order. The list is not exhaustive and will be updated from time to time.

Feedback and questions

We welcome your feedback and questions about this website and our analyses, as well as recommendations for other initiatives to be added. Please get in touch with us via [email protected].

About Wemos

Wemos is an international civil society organisation advocating equal access to health for everyone in the world. Together with our partners, we propose and support solutions for the root causes of limited access to health services and protection against health threats. Currently, we focus on achieving access to medicines and vaccines for all, availability of sufficient health personnel with proper working conditions, and adequate funding to enable quality healthcare. Since we were founded 40 years ago by a group of Dutch medical students, we have acquired an international reputation for our rights-based and systemic approach to health.

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