It is Time for Urgent Action on COVID-19 Vaccines: More than Words

Human Rights Watch

The ICJ and Human Rights Watch today addressed the UN Human Rights Council in the Interactive Dialogue on the Report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on COVID-19 responses and human rights.

The statement reads as follows:

Madam High Commissioner,

The ICJ and Human Rights Watch welcome your report on COVID-19 and human rights.

We believe that urgent action is needed beyond broad statements of condemnation of vaccine inequity. People without access to vaccines continue to live in fear of COVID-19 and, throughout the world, many continue to die.

Slow vaccine rollout continues across Southern Africa and Latin America and in Nepal and India despite the prevalence of quickly transmitting variants. In the face of such significant peril, Indian courts have questioned the rationality of government plans. In South Africa elite athletes and sports administrators have been vaccinated, while older persons and vulnerable populations continue to wait their turn.

Pharmaceutical companies impose far reaching non-disclosure agreements on governments which restrict access to health information necessary to combat corruption and ensure accountability. In Colombia, courts have ordered disclosure of contracts relating to COVID-19 vaccines despite such agreements.

COVID-19 response measures continue to be used in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam to restrict access to health information and stifle expression of human rights defenders. In Hungary similar tactics have been compounded by simultaneous attacks on judicial independence.

How will the OHCHR guide States on how to ensure effective judicial and other remedies are available for those whose human rights are threatened by inadequate or inequitable COVID-19 responses?

I thank you.”

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