Access to COVID-19 vaccine, one of the basic human rights?

The opening article of the newest edition of “Ruch Prawniczy, Ekonomiczny i Socjologiczny” (The Juridical, Economic and Sociological Movement), the oldest legal journal in Poland, has been written by researchers from the Faculty of Law and Administration (WPiA) of the University of Gdańsk. It is titled ‘Pandemia COVID-19: wielopłaszczyznowość problemu dostępu do szczepionek i innych produktów leczniczych’ (COVID-19 Pandemic: the multifaceted problem of access to vaccine and other medicinal products).

The article’s authors are prof. UG, dr hab. Maciej Barczewski and prof. UG, dr hab. Sebastian Sykuna from the Division of Human Rights and Legal Ethics WPiA UG, who initiated legal debate on the problem of access to COVID-19 vaccine. It is the first peer reviewed juridical article on COVID-19 pandemic’s determinants.

Isolating and complete genome sequencing of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus have initiated worldwide debate on the access terms and extent of vaccine and other medicinal products combating the COVID-19 pandemic. Article’s authors believe that major impetus to said debate is maintaining a specific homeostasis between the right to protect intellectual property interests and the right for healthcare. It is imperative to refer the instruments shaping international human rights protection system when searching for instruments which could help prevent the intellectual property right violations.

The spread of COVID-19 pandemic and the need to provide appropriate medicinal products to millions of infected people seem to justify the argument to recognize the right to medicinal products access as the basic category of human rights. Although states themselves are obligated to implement said law, this matter requires their international cooperation. Providing access to medicinal products is not only the responsibility of specific national governments but also international corporations, who are members of the international community.

Translation: Adam Myzyk

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