Top US Democratic lawmakers have launched #FreeTheVaccine campaign in support of a proposal by India and South Africa before the World Trade Organisation to temporarily waive anti-COVID vaccine patents to boost its supply.
More than 100 Democratic Congressmen, along with a large number of policy activists and rights bodies, launched the campaign on Tuesday, a day before the crucial meeting of the WTO General Council in Geneva.
"The horror in India could play out again and again in other countries if we don't act now. Blocking access to vaccines is anti-humanitarian, anti-diplomatic, and weakens American influence for good on the global stage, Congressman Lloyd Doggett tweeted.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee also echoed similar sentiments. "India is seeing devastation right now, which could be helped if we would #FreeTheVaccine. The time is now to do what is right, she said.
"India's public health system is collapsing. This is no time to keep vaccines and vaccine technology from the developing world #FreeTheVaccine, Congressman Andy Levin said.
Last week, a group of Democratic lawmakers met Tai and White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients over the issue and urged her to support the proposal. The group of lawmakers included Jan Schakowsky, Lloyd Doggett, Rosa DeLauro, Earl Blumenauer, Jes s Garc a, Barbara Lee, Adriano Espaillat, and Andy Levin.
"Much of the required vaccines should be manufactured abroad near those in greatest need using American technology. We need more urgent action by the administration to remove any objection to the TRIPS waiver and permit sharing of the intellectual property required for vaccine manufacturing to get underway immediately, the lawmakers said in a joint statement.
"To underscore the need for action now, we hope that more taxpayers, public interest advocates, religious and business leaders will join our call on the administration. With an increasing public outcry, the administration must act, they said.
Joining the #FreeTheVaccine campaign, Congressman Mark Pocan said India is being devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I joined 110 of my colleagues demanding President Joe Biden to support a TRIPS Waiver, so the world has access to life-saving COVID vaccines, he said.
"We must put people's lives over Big Pharma's profits. #FreeTheVaccine, Pocan said.
Indian American politician from New York Jaslin Kaur also appealed to President Biden to support the proposal by India and South Africa.
"Tomorrow is your chance to support #TRIPSWaiver before the WTO to save millions in India, she said.
"COVID-19 is killing 120 Indians per hour 3,000 people dying daily, while global superpowers hoard the vaccine + refuse to release the patents. It's apartheid, it's genocide. I'll be standing with dozens of organizations + allies tomorrow to demand a free #PeoplesVaccine for all," tweeted another Indian American politician from Virginia Karishma Mehta.
Dozens of non-profit organisations have scheduled a rally for vaccine access for all at the National Mall on Wednesday.
Prominent among them are People's Action, Justice Is Global, Amnesty International, Public Action, Africans Rising, Oxfam and Association for Concerned Africa Scholars.
"We know governments can do much more to end the global pandemic, including sharing vaccine recipes and helping the world make billions more doses, said the rally organisers.
"The Biden administration has an opportunity to make vaccines available by supporting the TRIPS Waiver at the World Trade Organisation, as proposed by India and South Africa. Furthermore, the US can and should invest money in scaling up global vaccine manufacturing. Join the call to #FreeTheVaccine!" they said.