COVID Vaccines – UN Security Council; UNESCO
Security Council Calls for Increased Global Cooperation to Facilitate COVID-19 Vaccine Access in Conflict Areas, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2565 (2021)
26 February 2021
The Security Council today announced the adoption of a resolution calling for strengthened international cooperation to facilitate equitable and affordable access to COVID-19 vaccines in armed conflict and post-conflict situations, and during complex humanitarian emergencies.
Acting through its special silence procedure enacted during the pandemic, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2565 (2021), recognizing the role of extensive immunization against COVID-19 as a global public good for health. It stressed the need to develop international partnerships, particularly to scale-up manufacturing and distribution capabilities, in recognition of differing national contexts.
By other terms, it reiterated its demand for a general and immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations on its agenda, demanding as well that all parties to armed conflicts engage immediately in a durable, extensive, and sustained humanitarian pause to facilitate the equitable, safe and unhindered delivery and distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations in areas of armed conflict.
Reaffirming that these calls do not apply to military operations against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Al-Qaida and Al-Nusra Front, or their associates, the Council demanded that all parties to armed conflicts fully comply with their obligations under international law.
Further, the Council requested the Secretary-General to provide a full assessment of the impediments to vaccine accessibility and the COVID-19 response, including vaccination programmes, in situations of armed conflict and complex humanitarian emergencies — and as necessary, make recommendations to the Council. It expressed its intention to review situations brought to its attention by the Secretary-General where hostilities and armed group activities are impeding COVID 19 vaccination and to consider what further measures may be necessary to ensure such impediments are removed, and hostilities paused to enable vaccination.
It emphasized the urgent need for “solidarity, equity and efficacy”, inviting donation of vaccine doses from developed economies and all those in a position to do so to low- and middle-income countries and other countries in need, particularly through the COVAX Facility — a global mechanism for pooled procurement and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
[Security Council resolutions are currently adopted through a written procedure vote under temporary, extraordinary and provisional measures implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as set out in a letter (document S/2020/253) by its President for March 2020 (China).]
UNESCO calls for COVID-19 vaccines to be considered a global public good
UNESCO’s International Bioethics Committee (IBC) and the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST) have called for a change of course in current COVID-19 vaccination strategies, urging that vaccines be treated as a global public good to ensure they are made equitably available in all countries, and not only to those who bid the highest for these vaccines. Both committees have a long track record in providing ethical guidance on sensitive issues*.
The statement was presented during an online event on 24 February, which gathered UNESCO’s ethics bodies together with Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, and Professor Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia University.
The IBC-COMEST Statement stresses three key messages:
Firstly, pharmaceutical industries have a responsibility to share the intellectual property acquired with government support to enable manufacturers in all countries to provide access to vaccines for all, which should be considered a global public good. The IBC and COMEST also stress the responsibility of the pharmaceutical industry to invest in factories capable of producing vaccines of the highest possible efficacy and facilitating rapid distribution where needed.
Secondly, the IBC and COMEST say that the vaccine’s benefit to the greatest number of people cannot be considered the sole ethical criterion. Equality, equity, protection from vulnerability, reciprocity and the best interests of children must also be taken into account. Furthermore, decisions on fair distribution and prioritization should be based on the advice of a multidisciplinary group of experts in bioethics, law, economics, and sociology, together with scientists.
Thirdly, the IBC and COMEST consider that vaccination strategies should be based on a non-compulsory, non-punitive model, grounded in information and education, including dialogue with people who may be hesitant about vaccination or hostile to it. Refusing to be vaccinated should not affect the individual’s fundamental rights, specifically his or her right to access healthcare or employment.
Other issues the statement covers include: international cooperation across all different sectors working on COVID-19 to share the benefits of research; the sustainability issues that favour the emergence of zoonotic diseases; trust in science and healthcare authorities; the indispensable need for dialogue between science, ethics, politics and civil society.