[Ip-health] Politico: Germany gets love from WHO despite mixed record on vaccines equity

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Thu Jul 15 13:22:19 PDT 2021


Germany gets love from WHO despite mixed record on vaccines equity

Berlin remains a staunch opponent of a vaccines patent waiver.

July 15, 2021 7:50 pm

Germany announced Thursday another €260 million for the World Health
Organization to spend on coronavirus treatments, tests and vaccines, as
well as at least 30 million vaccine doses for COVAX, the global vaccines

The move drew warm praise from WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who
called Germany "one of the leading lights in the fight against the pandemic
globally" as Health Minister Jens Spahn made the announcement. Tedros also
pointed to the almost $750 million Germany has funneled to the WHO since
2020 and its role in the formation of the ACT Accelerator, in which COVAX
is housed.

What Tedros didn't mention: Berlin also remains a staunch opponent of a
patent waiver for coronavirus vaccines — a measure pushed by the WHO,
India, South Africa, and many developing countries.

Waiver proponents argue that scrapping patent protection is the only way
that vaccine development can flourish outside rich countries.

Elisabeth Massute, advocacy officer at Doctors Without Borders Access
Campaign, said that Berlin should “walk the talk,” as Spahn himself has

“The German funding for WHO is important and to be praised, but there are
also other pressing matters: vaccines are needed urgently in many
countries,” said Massute. Germany needs to share vaccine doses now, “not
just in a slow trickle until the end of the year,” and support the waiver,
she added.

Tedros himself has gone hard after waiver opponents. He has also blasted
countries that are now thinking of vaccinating children or contemplating
booster shots for the autumn while the world's have-nots get nothing, on
grounds that this amounts to hoarding. Earlier this week, he said countries
that are ordering third doses are putting at risk health care workers'
lives around the world.

Indeed, just moments after the announcement, WHO’s emergency committee
chair Didier Houssin condemned countries that are promising booster shots —
a move that could “increase inequity” — and said that intellectual property
rights needed to be waived.

Those arguments haven't swayed Spahn, who continued to insist on Thursday
that Berlin won't shift its stance on the waiver. The debate “does not
actually address the actual problem,” said Spahn, calling it “very
ideological.” The challenge isn't patents but technology transfer, he said,
while expressing confidence that companies will increase production through
more collaboration.

He also attempted to address a growing controversy in Germany over whether
it's right to vaccinate children and plan booster shots. Currently,
adolescents can choose to be vaccinated in Germany, but the official
guidance doesn't recommend it for those that don't have pre-existing
conditions. Germany is also reportedly planning on purchasing 204 million
vaccine doses for next year.

Pointing to a recent visit to South Africa, Spahn said that when he was
there, Germany was discussing vaccinating 13 to 15-year-olds. That fact
“shows how privileged we are” given that at the time South Africa hadn’t
vaccinated one percent of its population, he said — an issue that needs to
be discussed “critically and openly.”

“From my point of view, we need both,” he said, referring to third doses in
Germany and first doses elsewhere, and added it's in Germany’s own interest
to vaccinate the world. “I want both to be possible, for us to be able to
provide third vaccination while also providing a first vaccination to
everyone around the world.”

Thursday's announcement comes amid Germany's recent push to carve out a
role as a heavyweight in global health, both in terms of funding and
broader diplomacy. Together with France, Germany has been the driving force
behind efforts for reform and strengthening at the WHO.

But for the WHO, it will continue to struggle with the balancing act,
playing nice to donors while staying vocal on the matter of global health

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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