During the 49th session, the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted Resolution A/HRC/49/L.32 on “Ensuring equitable, affordable, timely and universal access for all countries to vaccines in response to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic”. The Resolution was sponsored by Azerbaijan, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Aligned, and Ecuador.

The Resolution emphasised that States need to ensure that all human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled while combating the pandemic and that their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic respect and are in full compliance with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The Resolution reaffirms the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, which requires that States take the steps necessary to prevent, treat and control epidemic, endemic, occupational and other diseases and to create the conditions.

The Resolution noted that since the beginning of the vaccine roll-out, the majority of all vaccines administered have been concentrated in high-income countries, while low-income countries still lag behind in gaining access to Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines and expressed serious concern over the disparity between developing countries and developed countries in terms of the distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines. The Resolution welcomed the global initiatives promoting global solidarity in response to the pandemic, including the efforts of countries that have supplied or supported the administration of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, including through the COVAX Facility, as well as the initiatives to support an inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Resolution was concerned about the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the enjoyment of human rights around the world, and emphasized the importance of human rights in shaping the response to the pandemic, in terms of both the public health emergency and the broader impact on people’s lives and livelihoods. It underscored that equitable access to health products is a matter of global priority and that the availability, accessibility, acceptability and affordability of health products of assured quality and safety are fundamental to tackling the pandemic, and expressing its concern about the fact that the unequal distribution of vaccines delays the end of the acute phase of the pandemic. It reaffirmed the fundamental role of the United Nations system in coordinating the global response to control and contain the spread of COVID-19 and in providing support to States, and in this regard acknowledging the crucial leading role played by the World Health Organization.

The Resolution urged States to work in partnership with all relevant stakeholders to increase research and development funding for vaccines and medicines, leverage digital technologies and strengthen the scientific international cooperation necessary to combat COVID-19 and bolster coordination, including with the private sector, towards further development, manufacturing and distribution of diagnostics, antiviral medicines, personal protective equipment and vaccines while adhering to the objectives of quality, efficacy, safety, equity, accessibility and affordability.

The Resolution called on States, other partners and donors to urgently support funding and close the funding gap for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator and its mechanisms, such as the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility, to support the equitable distribution of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines and to further explore innovative financing mechanisms aimed at ensuring affordable, timely, equitable and universal access to, and the fair distribution of, COVID-19 vaccines for all and the continuity and strengthening of essential health services. The Resolution further encouraged States and other stakeholders to voluntarily share technology and support the development of voluntary patent pools, such as the World Health Organization COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP).

The Resolution also requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in consultation with States, United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, in particular the World Health Organization, the special procedures of the Human Rights Council, the treaty bodies, civil society organizations and other stakeholders, to prepare a report on the human rights implications of and good practices and key challenges in affordable, timely, equitable and universal access to and distribution of quality, safe, efficacious and affordable COVID19 vaccines and the impact on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, to submit the report to the Human Rights Council, at its fifty-second session, to be followed by an interactive dialogue, and to provide an oral update thereon to the Council at its fifty-first session.

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