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Equity without human rights: a false COVID-19 narrative?
  1. Rajat Khosla1,
  2. Sofia Gruskin2
  1. 1Amnesty International, London, UK
  2. 2Institute on Inequalities in Global Health, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Sofia Gruskin; Gruskin{at}

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As of 24 June, about 22.35% of the world population have been vaccinated against COVID-19. This represents a range from a low of 2.48% in Africa to a high of 39.01% in Europe and 41.43% in North America.1 Many have lamented the need to address these gaps and have vociferously called for ensuring vaccine equity. The question must be asked: if the goal is for all people to be vaccinated, will equity alone get us there?

Over and above simply the availability of vaccine a multitude of factors have been identified as contributing to gaps in vaccination rates, ranging from individual hesitancy, to community distrust, to inadequate national health systems, let alone global-level supply chain issues and restrictive intellectual property regimes. While not unique to COVID-19, many of these have proven even more nefarious in the context of access to COVID-19 vaccine, with implications for global health more broadly. An equity approach is certainly needed to bring attention to such injustice, but learnings from HIV and other areas of health have demonstrated the utility of attention to human rights norms and standards, and that the rule of law and accountability are key components of what is needed to truly make the difference. The last decades have shown time and again the value of human rights not only for advocacy purposes but also to provide sustained, long-term solutions. Therefore, we posit that an equity-oriented approach systematically combined with human rights may help not only to address the present vaccine crisis but to address inequalities in global health more broadly.

As far back as 2003, …

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