Addressing a meeting of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs on Tuesday, which was reviewing access to Covid-19 vaccines for low and middle-income countries, WHO’s Covid-19 special envoy Dr David Nabarro warned the world was at a tipping point as most poorer countries would not be vaccinated until 2023 or later, which meant the pandemic was far from being resolved.
He strongly endorsed deployment of the Covax programme, which enables poorer countries get vaccine at the lowest price, in combination with rich countries and pharma companies participating in WHO’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) without delay. It is a voluntary sharing of intellectual property (IP) rights, data, know-how and cell lines, allowing easier manufacturing of vaccines.
The committee heard only five EU countries have supported the initiative. Ireland has yet to join C-TAP but all committee members who addressed the meeting backed the move in response to a submission by Access to Medicines Ireland (AMI).
Dr Nabarro said a global action plan backed by an administrative support programme “where the world comes behind poorer countries” was necessary, because the task was beyond individual countries.
“This is nowhere near the end. People say there is light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not sure how far that light is away. I have no idea how long it will take to reach the end of the tunnel,” he added.
Asked what position the Government should adopt, Dr Nabarro said political action was required “within the nation”; across the EU and through the UN Security Council, but there was also a case for securing the view of Irish people.