Last week, Los Angeles hosted the Summit of the Americas amid a tumultuous period for governments in the region. While lingering tensions over invited countries threaten to overshadow the event, the summit is a unique opportunity for Latin American leaders to come together and for President Joe Biden to weld. relationship with them.
The crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged Latin America. We are a region that cannot measure, understand and prevent the loss of life, but it is estimated that Latin America has one of the highest mortality rates in the world. By putting the impact of the pandemic front and center, our government can deliver the leadership our citizens need today in an already most unequal region in the world. .
Comprised of most middle-income countries, Latin American governments have found themselves really attracted to the middle. They do not have the same resources as those mobilized by rich countries to respond to the pandemic. But they also do not benefit from international assistance programs that often target only low- and middle-income countries.
Because pharmaceutical companies prioritize selling dosages where they can ensure the most profits, and there is no common approach to promote the interests of the entire region, accessing a COVID-19 vaccine is a challenge. difficult struggle for the continent. As a result, more than 200 million people remain unvaccinated across the region.
The combination of large urban populations, heavy chronic disease burden, weak health systems and severely uneven global vaccine deployment have led some experts to warn that Latin America could is the most vulnerable region in the world to the emergence of a new variant. This is not just a Latin American problem, it is everyone’s problem.
With nearly all Latin American governments advocating exemptions from intellectual property rules for COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments; and considering that several countries in the region are capable of producing vaccines and modern treatments – US government support for easing patent protection for vaccines Vaccines, antiviral treatments and life-saving tests can be a game changer.
Delayed World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations, now bogged down with proposals that are actually worse than the status quo when it comes to drug access, have left countries looking for their own solutions. me. Countries like Brazil have proposed a bill to bypass intellectual property rules, but those efforts have also stalled. More than two years since the coronavirus appeared, there is fear of repeating the same mistakes of the past. We do not cooperate as a region; We’re letting the profits of US companies control.
The behavior of the US pharmaceutical giants has not won goodwill in the region. Governments and aid programs are launched to provide much-needed supplies.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that the world is repeating the mistakes made in the early stages of the pandemic. Wealthy countries are rapidly buying up the world’s initial supply of these treatments, while low- and middle-income countries are unlikely to get them before 2023.
The contracts are still shrouded in secrecy. UNICEF is accused of having to agree did not disclose how much it paid Pfizer for a dose of the anti-virus treatment Paxlovid. And the company has been publicly condemned by the WHO for its “lack of transparency”.
After overwhelming pressure from global health activists, Pfizer and Merck have partnered with the Drug Patent Foundation to license their antiviral COVID-19 drug to lower-income countries. . But the licenses granted do not cover nearly all of Latin America, nor does Pfizer’s recent commitment to sell many drugs at “non-profit” prices. To ensure truly equal access, American drug companies must step up.
At the global COVID-19 summit in May, Biden commit shares some publicly owned coronavirus technology with WHO to support joint manufacturing efforts worldwide. This is an important statement of his administration’s intention to address structural barriers to equitable access to health. This is a step in the right direction. Now, governments must take the next step.
That requires unifying a unified stance in favor of the region and standing up against the pharmaceutical giants that have repeatedly put their profits before the needs of public health.
With support from his colleagues, Biden must bring Pfizer, Moderna, and Merck to follow in his government’s footsteps and share their COVID-19 technology with the world. And he could join many Latin American governments at the WTO in advocating for a complete and comprehensive waiver of all intellectual property rules related to coronavirus vaccines, testing and treatments.
The summit was seen as an opportunity to build a “sustainable, resilient and equitable” future. The impact of COVID-19 in Latin America remains a threat to each of those targets.
As the United Nations Commission on the Elimination of Racism said, the global pandemic response has revealed further evidence of racism in a “system of privileges for the former colonial powers”. to the detriment of formerly colonized states”. By taking decisive action on COVID-19 equity, our government could create a long overdue crack in that system.
For too long, Latin America has been seen as a second-rate actor in global geopolitics, and issues affecting people’s daily lives have not been effectively addressed for too long. . The global response to COVID-19 has only exacerbated this reality. And better cooperation among governments in the region is a necessary step to getting things right.
For his part, President Biden has the opportunity to restore trust with his southern neighbors after the Summit of the Americas. But this will require concrete actions of solidarity, responsible leadership and objective measures to ensure the region’s progress towards equitable access to science-based technologies. to face COVID-19 and other future pandemics.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.