The Principle of Systemic Integration in Times of Public Health Crisis: International Law’s Fiction or Opportunity?

Access to vaccines in low and middle-income countries is emerging as the COVID-19 pandemic’s singular human rights and equity challenge. At the heart of these disparities lies a tangled web of international law regimes that significantly shape state responses to this crisis: from the WHO’s International Health Regulations which governs pandemic responses; to the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights which governs pharmaceutical patents, to international human rights treaties which govern human rights to life, health and non-discrimination. There is limited interaction between these regimes and limited recognition of the pressing human rights concerns at stake. This presentation proposes to critically examine the application of the principle of systemic integration under international law through the real-world global vaccine inequity crisis, and consider its utility to the interpretation and reform of key regimes.