A Covid-19 vaccine must be available for the world’s poorest

8 December 2020

ActionAid is calling for a Covid-19 vaccine to be made freely available to all, in all countries, regardless of wealth or privilege. Principles of solidarity and justice are the only way out of the Covid-19 nightmare.

Mona 47, a nurse and women's network leader in Haiti, works to raise awareness about Covid-19 and its prevention in her community. Photo: ActionAid

A globally accessible and affordable Covid-19 vaccine is in the interests of all humanity. It is the only way to end the pandemic for good.

But if vaccines are only available to wealthy individuals and rich nations, the coronavirus pandemic will continue to tear societies apart for years to come.

That’s why ActionAid is calling for a vaccine to be made freely available to all, in all countries, regardless of wealth or privilege. 

The call for a People’s Vaccine

We are supporting calls for a People’s Vaccine. This means the vaccine and all treatments, diagnostics, and other technologies to tackle the pandemic must provide for equitable access and fair distribution, and be produced rapidly at scale.

Available vaccine doses must be distributed equitably among all countries, including Least Developed Countries.

Within individual countries, there should also be fair distribution of vaccines according to need, with care workers and medically vulnerable populations first in line. 

Women and girls must have access to the vaccine

If Covid-19 medicines or vaccines are rationed, rather than widely available, women and girls will lose out. 

Research shows that households often prioritise the needs of male family members when essential services like healthcare and education are not affordable. 

With women at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic, making up 70% of the global health care force, their access to a vaccine must be a priority.1

Public health services must be properly funded

The vaccine will only be accessible to all if there are adequate health workers and infrastructure to roll it out

As shown in ActionAid’s “Who Cares” report,2 public health systems have been underfunded for a generation due to austerity policies and rigged tax rules that allow big companies – including pharmaceutical giants who stand to make enormous profits from Covid-19 – to avoid paying their fair share. 

Tax reform and debt cancellation are urgently needed to refinance public health systems worldwide, so that everyone receives the health care and medicines they need.

Civil society monitoring is crucial

In many countries North and South, efforts to fight Covid-19 have been marred by corruption and discrimination

To ensure special interests don’t gain control of vaccine distribution, strong public oversight locally, nationally and globally is crucial, with an active role for civil society organisations.

Leave no one behind

Special efforts must be made to ensure that vaccines are available to migrants and refugees, stateless people, and people living in countries facing sanctions.

The vaccine must be produced rapidly, at scale

A single pharmaceutical company does not have the capacity to make enough vaccines to meet the world’s needs. 

The mass production needed to ensure a universal and timely vaccine requires a total shift in pharmaceutical industry practices. Companies must collaborate and share knowledge and patents. Generic production by public health systems should be encouraged where possible. 

International cooperation is crucial to develop and distribute vaccines at the huge scale needed to guarantee equitable and universal access. 

For a start, the rich world must urgently provide the missing $4.5bn needed to get vaccination efforts underway in developing countries in 2021.

To end this devastating pandemic, we must put the interests of humanity ahead of the interests of large corporations, big pharma or single governments. 

Principles of solidarity and justice are the only way out of the Covid-19 nightmare. 

How you can help

Please share this blog, and support the call for a People’s Vaccine that is freely available for all, in all countries, regardless of wealth or privilege


  • 1https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/311314/WHO-HIS-HWF-Gender-WP1-2019.1-eng.pdf
  • 2https://actionaid.org/publications/2020/who-cares-future-finance-gender-responsive-public-services