On 22nd August 2022, members of the Missing Medicines Coalition sent the following letter to Baroness Hallett, leader of the UK COVID-19 Inquiry. The letter follows a report, authored by RESULTS UK, that makes the case for including the international impact of the UK COVID-19 response in the Inquiry. For more information on the letter or report please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rt Hon Baroness Hallett
DBE House of Lords
22 August 2022
Dear Baroness Hallett,
RE: UK COVID-19 Inquiry: Accounting for the UK’s international response
As we approach the UK COVID-19 inquiry’s first procedural hearings, we are writing to share an analysis of the UK Government’s international response to COVID-19 in the attached report “Paternalism and Power in UK Pandemic Preparedness and Response”. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss the findings of the report with you and how these can be incorporated into the inquiry.
Given the inquiry’s focus on the impact of the pandemic on inequalities, this should include how this has manifested globally and the UK’s role in exacerbating or mitigating these differences.
Deaths have been four times higher in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries, and just 20.2% of people in low-income countries have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 73% of the UK population who have received at least two doses. It has long been acknowledged that for as long as the virus is allowed and facilitated to proliferate among unvaccinated populations, new variants will emerge that put the progress made in protecting the UK’s domestic population to-date at risk.
In order to effectively examine the UK’s response to the pandemic and identify lessons to be learned to inform preparations for future pandemics, as stipulated in the Terms of Reference, the inquiry must also investigate the UK’s role in the global response and the domestic implications of this. Specifically, we recommend that the inquiry should:
● Evaluate the impact of pre-purchasing high volumes of vaccines on global vaccination availability and coverage to date, considering the knock-on impact on high levels of mortality, and on variants of concern and continued economic harm caused to people in the UK from the resulting prolonged pandemic;
● Examine the extent to which scientific expertise both in the UK and in low- and middle-income countries was integrated and acted upon in decision-making processes;
● Scrutinise the UK’s impact on negotiations for an Intellectual Property Waiver, with specific attention given to the World Trade Organisation 12th Ministerial Meeting and the UK’s role in weakening the provisions of the Intellectual Property waiver;
● Actively seek and carefully consider the testimonies of diaspora communities in the UK and consider the mental health impacts on those with family members in countries with low vaccination coverage; and
● Analyse the UK Government’s use of its financial investments and influence to engender equitable access.
As host of last year’s G7 in Carbis Bay, the UK Prime Minister welcomed the opportunity to learn from errors saying, “What’s gone wrong with this pandemic, what risks being a lasting scar, is the inequalities that have been entrenched. We need to make sure that as we recover, we level up across our societies – we need to build back better”.
Over one year on from Carbis Bay, those lessons are not being learned, and the inequalities remain. This inquiry, which aims to “Identify the lessons to be learned from the above, to inform preparations for future pandemics across the UK”, is an opportunity to redress this.
Looking at the impact of the UK Government’s decisions in both the domestic and international context will provide a thorough evidence base of lessons learnt and, therefore, inform a rigorous plan for future pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.
The engagement of you and your team with affected communities in this space is reassuring and extending this to civil society organisations will only help to strengthen the process and outcome of the inquiry.
We thank you for your commitment so far to strengthening the UK’s future pandemic preparedness by leading this inquiry and look forward to the opportunity to discuss the report’s findings.
RESULTS UK Just Treatment Health Poverty Action MSF UK Oxfam GB Save the Children UK People’s Vaccine Alliance STOPAIDS Global Justice Now