‘Equity’ in the Pandemic Treaty: The False Hope of ‘Access and Benefit-Sharing’

Abbie-Rose Hampton, Mark Eccleston-Turner, Michelle Rourke, Stephanie Switzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


During the COVID-19 pandemic the international community repeatedly called for the equitable distribution of vaccines and other medical countermeasures. However, there was a substantial gap between this rhetoric and State action. High-income countries secured significantly more doses than they required, leaving many low-income countries unable to vaccinate their populations. Current negotiations for the new Pandemic Treaty under the World Health Organization (WHO) attempt to narrow the gap between rhetoric and behaviour by building the concept of equity into the Treaty's substantive content. However, equity is difficult to define, much less to operationalize. Presently, WHO Member States appear to have chosen ‘access and benefit-sharing’ (ABS) as the predominant mechanism for operationalizing equity in the Treaty. This article examines ABS as a mechanism, its use in public health, and argues that ABS is fundamentally flawed, unable to achieve equity. It proposes other options for an equitable international response to future pandemic threats.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)909-943
Number of pages35
JournalInternational and Comparative Law Quarterly
Issue number4
Early online date6 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2023


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