Human rights

Human rights failures of the Covid-19 pandemic persist

(New York) – Governments should redouble their efforts to meet their legal obligation to ensure the highest possible standard of health for all people around the world, Human Rights Watch said today, marking the second anniversary of the declaration. from the World Health Organization (WHO) on the Covid-19 pandemic. More than 6 million people have died from Covid-19 in the past two years. Billions of people, most in low- and middle-income countries, are entering the third year of the pandemic unprotected, without even a single dose of vaccine, as high-income governments have thwarted a faster, equitable global response. and rights-based.

Governments should not repeat deadly missteps, Human Rights Watch said in a series of reports with recommendations for reforming their approach. Bringing social protection back to pre-pandemic levels is particularly dangerous because the pandemic is not over and low-income people continue to bear the brunt of its economic impacts. As some governments adopt “living with Covid” policies, older people and others at particular risk may feel they have to choose between staying home or risking contracting the virus. The impact on children is no less severe, as many have lost up to two years of formal learning, and the most marginalized among them are the hardest hit. And we are entering another year of the pandemic with a huge and growing divide between vaccine haves and have-nots. The pandemic is having ongoing human rights repercussions and governments need to recalibrate their approach.

“Policy makers need to be aware of how their own privilege can bias their views on the pandemic and uphold the right to health for all, not just those in such secure positions,” said Tirana Hassan, Deputy Executive Director and Head of Programs at Human Rights Watch. “Ending the pandemic is not the same as ignoring it. Thousands of people continue to die from Covid-19 every day, while billions of people who cannot get vaccinated remain at risk of serious illness and death.

Governments must not ignore human rights concerns raised by taking steps to scale back proven protective measures such as face masks and social safety nets around the world, as vaccination rates remain low between and within countries, largely based on socio-economic status. The right to health in international law imposes obligations to respect equity, including access to information, adequate health care and determinants of health such as food and water.

Global health experts have warned for years that inequality is a major determinant of an individual’s or community’s ability to survive, and that those who lack access to resources such as solid health, health workers, medicines and vaccines would be those who would fall ill and die at the highest rate.

Safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines have been around for over a year. But pharmaceutical companies and wealthy governments like the United States and Germany have refused to share knowledge and technology to expand and diversify global production of more affordable vaccines, leaving low- and middle-income countries to wait.

The rights failures that underpin the high infection and death rates, even though authorities have the knowledge to prevent infections and deaths, have helped prolong the pandemic, Human Rights Watch said. WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus warned March 6, 2022: “It is too early to declare victory over Covid-19. Many countries are facing high rates of hospitalization and death. With high transmission, the threat of a new, more dangerous variant remains real. We urge everyone to exercise caution and all governments to stay the course. »

Health authorities have indicated that they are well aware of the continued suffering caused by their choices, but they continue to roll back protections. On March 3, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidelines that reduce the recommended use of masks, increasing the risk of contracting Covid-19 for millions of immunocompromised people.

On March 4, CDC Director Rachele Walensky said:

In the field of infectious diseases, we have known for a long time that infectious diseases do not go to places of wealth but to places of poverty and places that lack access to care. The first people who brought SARS-CoV-2 to the United States were people who traveled on planes, people who traveled on cruise ships, people who had the resources to do this stuff. But then it became a disease of the most vulnerable.

Some wealthy country governments and pharmaceutical companies are undermining timely and equitable access to vaccines, therapeutic drugs and Covid-19 tests. Widespread availability and accessibility of safe and effective vaccines will play a role in protecting people against Covid-19 and limiting the spread of the virus. But the pandemic has laid bare the dangers of having lifesaving vaccine manufacturing capacity concentrated in a few countries where governments have refused to prioritize and mandate the sharing of intellectual property and technology for diversified production. and global fast.

World leaders should work together to expand and diversify the production of safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines in low- and middle-income countries by sharing knowledge and technology widely with competent manufacturers and the technology transfer centers of WHO, Human Rights Watch said. The United States, the European Commission and other Western governments should work for the rapid passage of a waiver of intellectual property protections on vaccines, treatments and tests, which has been blocked for more than 17 months in the World Trade Organization (WTO). The People’s Vaccine Alliance and its members are holding events around the world today to demand that world leaders abandon intellectual property rules and share the technology behind vaccines, tests and treatments.
“It is unconscionable that rich countries continue to reduce life-saving health care to a tradable commodity and do not use their power at the WTO to ensure that the right to health comes before the pharmaceutical industry and commercial interests” , Hassan said. “In the meantime, social protection, access to health information, paid sick leave and flexible working arrangements, and accessible education remain essential, especially for marginalized communities and people with disabilities. health issues that make them more vulnerable to Covid-19.”