Title : Vaccines and the human right to health: Health as a Global Public Good
It is understandable that the covid-19 pandemic is treated as a matter of medicine, public health and economics, even public safety. But it should be noted that this is, above all, a question of human rights.
International scientific cooperation, intensive research and substantive financial support from States have enabled the development of several safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19 in record time. However, this scientific achievement is contrasted with the lack of vaccine availability and the uneven global distribution of the quantity produced and ordered. This situation represents discrimination in the right of access to vaccination worldwide, and a violation of the right to health and life.
However, vaccines are subject to the regime of intellectual property rights. It is only fair that the private commercial entities or public research institutions that created these vaccines, with substantial financial support from public funds, receive reasonable compensation for their investments and research. However, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recalls, in the declaration E/C.12/2021, of March 2021, that intellectual property rights are not a human right, but a social product with a social function. Consequently, States Parties have a duty to prevent intellectual property and patent legal regimes from impairing the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, namely the right to health. As the World Trade Organization has already indicated, the intellectual property regime must be interpreted and implemented in such a way that it supports the duty of States “to protect public health”.
Business entities, including pharmaceutical companies, have an obligation, at a minimum, to respect the rights of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966); have specific responsibilities to enable the realization of the right to health, including in relation to access to medicines and vaccines and have human rights responsibilities in relation to access to medicines, including active pharmaceutical ingredients, diagnostic tools , vaccines, biopharmaceuticals and other health-related technologies. Accordingly, commercial entities must also refrain from invoking intellectual property rights in a manner that is inconsistent with the right of all individuals to access a safe and effective vaccine.
Audience Take Away:
- Understand the international frameworks related to human law for health protection
- Enlarge the discussion of Health as a Global Public Good
- Discuss the role of public and private actors responsibilities to enable the realization of the right to health