Bulletin #2: The struggle for vaccines

This fortnight

On 14 June, we marked the birth anniversary of Ernesto Che Guevara, whose vision guided the development of the Cuban healthcare system. Today, healthcare in Cuba remains rooted in the ideals of social and revolutionary medicine fought for by Che. They are an inspiration in the current times of pandemic. Members of the Cuban international health brigades that went to support the pandemic response in 39 countries have already paid tribute to this vision. The upcoming Cuban vaccines will certainly do the same, as they have the potential to significantly boost vaccination drives in low and middle income countries. We bring an in-depth story on the vaccine research and development process in Cuba, as a tribute to the public health capacities that made it possible.

Meanwhile, rich countries continue to direct their efforts to safeguard the interests of big pharmaceutical companies. Yet, the TRIPS waiver proposal has inched towards text-based negotiations. Its opponents – in particular the European Union – have met growing resistance within their own ranks. Just over a week ago, the European Parliament voted in favour of a TRIPS waiver for Covid-19 vaccines, and various national parliaments have done as much. Although these votes do not bind the European Commission to change its tune, they illustrate a divergence between the EU’s bureaucratic institutions and it’s democratically elected bodies. We bring you an update on the negotiations and reflections on the differences of opinion inside the European bloc.

The hunt for profit continues to impact the pandemic response in other ways too. With around 2,000 daily new Covid-19 cases, the pandemic in Japan is far from over. Although the majority of Japanese are opposing it, the Olympic Games are likely to take place from the end of July. We bring you more on how the International Olympic Committee has chosen to disregard the warnings of public health experts to protect the big business that the Games have become.

Meanwhile, in Colombia, protests have been going on for seven weeks, triggered by the Duque government’s announcement of a health and tax reform that would favour the rich and make the health system less accessible to the working class. Hundreds of thousands of people have come on the streets and supported the call to drop the reforms - including health workers.

To conclude with another anniversary, we carry the first of a two-part video interview with Mark Heywood, a founder of the South African Treatment Action Campaign. Mark takes us back to the early days of the HIV/AIDS pandemic that started 40 years ago. He reflects on how the community and activists fought for access to medicines in a context of extreme stigma. The lessons from this experience have rarely been as important as they are today.

Cuba’s COVID-19 vaccines: A journey of collaboration and revolutionary solidarity

With its development of five COVID-19 vaccines and the promise of sharing know-how with developing countries, Cuba has remained faithful to Che Guevara’s values of international solidarity and people-oriented medicine.

Citius, Altius, Business: The Olympic Movement is reducing itself to a farce by staging the Tokyo Games

The decision to organize the Tokyo Olympics from July 23 has opened up a Pandora’s Box of controversies related to the approach of the International Olympic Committee, holding a mega event amid a pandemic, and democracy in the world of sport.

The callous position of the EU in the access to vaccines negotiations

Despite attempts by the European Commission to stall discussion on the TRIPS waiver proposal for COVID-19 vaccines, the proposal has inched forward with support from the European Parliament and some parliaments of EU members states.

National strike in Colombia also a fight for fair access to health care

Regressive health and tax reforms have sparked protests in Colombia, building upon decades of undermining the public health system and reducing access to the poor and working class.

VIDEO INTERVIEW: To end the HIV/AIDS pandemic, we need to end inequities

40 years after the beginning of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the launch of the access to medicines movement, we bring a conversation with Mark Heywood from the Treatment Action Campaign, South Africa. Mark reflects on the lessons to draw while we respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Data speaks:

Global look at doses bought vs. doses necessary to vaccinate the whole population

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