Ireland reaches target in Sinn Féin led EU campaign for global vaccine equity
Sinn Féin representatives David Cullinane TD, Colm Gildernew MLA and Chris MacManus MEP have welcomed Ireland’s success in reaching its national targets under the EU-wide No Profit on Pandemic campaign. The petition-based campaign was a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), which sought support from people across the EU for fair and affordable access to Covid-19 medicines for all. Upon the closure of the campaign on 1st August, 9373 Irish citizens had signed the initiative, with 259,930 signatures amassed in the EU as a whole.
The No Profit on Pandemic ECI was launched by 11 citizens in November 2020, calling on the European Commission to do everything in its power to make anti-pandemic vaccines and treatments a global public good, freely accessible to everyone. The 11 citizens, including Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin representing Ireland, were supported by left parties throughout Europe, with Sinn Féin coordinating the campaign in Ireland.
“Back in 2020, Sinn Féin made this ECI an official party campaign because we were very aware that the current structure of the global pharmaceutical industry and intellectual property laws risked creating huge inequalities in access to Covid-19 vaccines and treatments,” said David Cullinane TD. “Governments and the EU were putting huge amounts of public money into the development of vaccines without any guarantee that the resulting medicines would be accessible and affordable to all, particularly to people living in low-income countries. Unfortunately, our concerns have proved justified: the poorest countries are still struggling to get a first vaccine to the majority of their citizens, while pharmaceutical companies have raked in billions of euro in profits.”
The stark inequality in global vaccine access has worked to further exacerbate existing inequalities between high- and low-income countries, becoming a major global justice issue. The ECI was therefore supported by hundreds of NGOs and development organisations across Europe. In Ireland, Oxfam, Trócaire, GOAL, Amnesty, ActionAid, Access to Medicines Ireland, the Association of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland, Cómhlamh, Dóchas, Misean Cara and the Irish Global Health Network all endorsed the campaign. The ECI also received the support of many trade unions and student unions who rallied their members to sign the petition.
“The strong civil society support for the initiative was mirrored in the support from the Irish people across the island, making Ireland one of the four countries that reached their national target,” said Colm Gildernew MLA. “As EU citizens living outside the EU can sign European Citizens’ Initiatives, the ECI was an important outlet for people in the six counties to continue engaging with EU affairs post-Brexit. Their voices join the hundreds of thousands who demand that the EU put the health of all people, no matter where they come from, above corporate profits.”
While the ECI did not meet its overall target of 1 million signatures, it serves to provide a clear mandate for the ongoing fight for vaccine equity as the Covid-19 pandemic rumbles on. The campaign mobilised NGOs, trade unions, political parties and healthcare associations across Europe, who are now organised and interconnected to continue to protect people’s right to healthcare.
“The experience of this campaign has been a positive one, despite the continued refusal of the European Commission to listen to the voices of EU citizens, and the call of the European Parliament to support a full waiver of intellectual property laws to improve global access to affordable Covid-19 medicines,” said Chris MacManus MEP. “Ireland played our part in an EU-wide effort, driven by left and progressive groups, to stand in solidarity with those in low-income countries and to build a healthcare system based on people rather than corporations. Sinn Féin will continue to support the excellent work of our civil society comrades, particularly the People’s Vaccine Alliance Ireland, as the struggle continues.” ENDS