2.5 million nurses file UN complaint for release of vaccine patents


An association of 2.5 million nurses worldwide has filed a complaint with the UN because the EU and three other countries are blocking the release of Covid vaccine patents. By doing so, these countries are committing human rights violations and are responsible for countless deaths, the initiators say.

Twenty-nine nursing unions have joined forces to challenge for the release of the Corona vaccine patents in November 2021. The protest is coordinated by Global Nurses United (GNU) and Progressive International (PI). Collectively, they represent more than 2.5 million nurses worldwide. Their activists are convinced that as long as there is no possibility that other vaccine manufacturers will also be allowed to produce the well-tested vaccines, an end to the pandemic is not in sight. This is because vaccine distribution is strikingly uneven around the world – not because of a lack of production facilities, but because of the artificial shortage caused by patents.


Healthcare workers are on the front lines of the fight against the pandemic. In the last two years of the pandemic at least 115,000 workers in this sector worldwide have died from a Corona infection. The number is likely even higher due to inaccurate records. On average, only two in five people in the healthcare sector are fully vaccinated – and in regions of Africa and the Western Pacific, the figure is less than one in ten. 

“Covid 19 cases continue to rise in numerous parts of the world, while pharmaceutical companies and governments have failed to ensure that critical treatments and vaccines are fairly distributed to contain the pandemic,” the unions said in their complaint. 


This problem has a simple solution. Vaccines must be released and distributed equitably. More than 100 countries around the world are in favor of releasing them. However, the EU, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Singapore are blocking the effort.

“These countries have violated our rights and the rights of our patients – and caused the loss of countless lives – of nurses and other caregivers, as well as those we have cared for,” the complaint reads.


Last year, the Global Nurses United network already sent an open letter to the World Trade Organization (WTO) calling for immediate action to “dramatically mitigate and ultimately end the catastrophic death and suffering caused by COVID.” Now, they are intensifying their protest with the complaint addressed to Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng. She is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Physical and Mental Health and welcomes the protest:

“States have a common responsibility to use all available means to provide faster access to vaccines, including through the introduction of a temporary waiver of relevant intellectual property rights,” says Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng.


It has been and remains the nurses and health workers who have been on the front lines protecting the population. “They witnessed the most painful and heartbreaking impact of the Covid 19 pandemic. Their obvious commitment to the right to physical and mental health gives them moral authority,” the special rapporteur concluded.

Global Nurses United represents more than 30 leading health and healthcare unions on every continent. 

Progressive International was founded in May 2020 with a mission to unite, organize and mobilize progressive forces around the world. Members of the PI include social movements, political parties, and unions representing millions of people around the world.

The following organizations are filing the complaint jointly:

Country Organization Members in the care sector
Australia Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation over 300.000
Brazil Federação Nacional dos Enfermeiros over 632.000
Canada Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions almost 200.000
Canada Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ) 76.000
Costa Rica Asociación Nacional de Profesionales en Enfermería (A.N.P.E.) 3.400
Curacao Curaçaose Bond Van Werknemers in Verplegende en Verzorgende Instgellingen over 2.000
Domenican Republic Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de Enfermeria over 8.000
Greece Pan-Hellenic Federation of Nursing Staff (PASONOP) 5.000
Guatemala El Sindicato Nacional de los Trabadores de Salud de Guatemala over 30.000
Honduras Asociación Nacional de Enfermeras/os Auxiliares de Honduras 7.300
India United Nurses Association over 500.000
Ireland The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation over 40.000
Israel Israeli Nurses Association 30.000
Italy Nursind over 47.000
Kenia Kenya National Union of Nurses over 30.000
Malawi National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives of Malawi 4.000
New Zealand New Zealand Nurses Organisation over 53.000
Paraguay Asociación Paraguaya de Enfermería 2.000
Philippines Filipino Nurses United 10.000
Portugal Sindicato dos Enfermeiros Portugueses around half of all registered care workers in the public sector
Ruanda Rwanda Nurses and Midwives Union over 10.000
South Africa The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) 82.000
South Corea Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Union 80.000
Spain El Sindicato de Enfermería (SATSE) over 130.000
Sri Lanka Government Nursing Officers’ Association over 25.000
Taiwan Taiwan Nurses Union n.a.
Uganda Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union over 5.000
USA National Nurses United over 175.000
Uruguay Sindicato Unico de Enfermeria del Uruguay (SUEU) über 5.000


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The social democratic magazine Kontrast.at covers current political events, both in Austria and in the rest of the world. We view society, state and economy from a progressive, emancipatory point of view. Kontrast casts the gaze of social justice on the world.


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