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Towards a Covid-19 vaccine: ethical, legal and practical considerations

Motion for a resolution | Doc. 15146 | 23 September 2020

Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

More than 30 million cases of Covid-19 have been recorded throughout the world since the start of the pandemic, causing nearly a million deaths and much suffering. A vaccine is eagerly awaited to stop the spread of the virus and bring hope of a return to normal life.

In several countries, universities and companies are competing to develop a vaccine for worldwide use; unprecedented resources have been mobilised to find a vaccine as quickly as possible. However, there is no guarantee that this research will be successful: the vaccine could be unsafe, or it might not be effective enough (in particular among groups most likely to develop a severe form of the disease, such as the elderly). Given this uncertainty, surveys have shown that a significant proportion of the population in Council of Europe member States and elsewhere have doubts about the reliability of the vaccines being developed.

Regardless of economic interests or the health emergency, the right to health must always be guaranteed. Once a safe and effective vaccine has been released, member States must provide for efficient and fair distribution, ensuring that vulnerable groups have priority access to it. They must also persuade the public to get vaccinated.

The Parliamentary Assembly should urgently examine ethical solutions based on full respect for human rights so as to provide member States with practical recommendations concerning the deployment and distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine.