UNAIDS, the UN agency fighting against the deadly HIV/AIDS virus, has initiated a petition from global leaders requesting that when a successful COVID-19 vaccine is developed, it be made available free of charge to all. On Thursday, more than 140 world leaders and figures signed an open letter requesting Governments unite behind a “people’s vaccine” against COVID-19, marking the most ambitious position yet set out by world leaders on what has become the most urgent quest in modern science. They are demanding that all vaccines, treatments and tests be patent-free, mass produced and distributed fairly. South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, is pushing for scientific research to be shared between countries and that the vaccine be patent-free.
Government and national leaders also joined UN agencies and international financial institutions on Thursday, in calling for water, sanitation and hygiene to be prioritized in the battle against the virus. Confirming that these three areas – together with physical distancing – are first lines of defence, and central to stemming the virus from spreading, they pointed out that handwashing requires access to running water in sufficient quantities.
It is essential to ensure that water and sanitation systems are resilient and sustainable to protect people’s health and support national health systems, according to the signatories. They also stressed the need to provide countries with financial support so they could adequately respond to the crisis. “Funding envelopes need to be maintained with no diversion away from the commitments and priorities set for the water, sanitation and hygiene sector”, they stated. They also called forcefully for the delivery of accurate, transparent information, based on scientific advice that enables everyone to act accordingly. “Resilience to future crises depends on actions taken now, as well as on policies, institutions and capacity put in place during normal times”, they concluded. “As leaders, this is our chance to save lives”.