SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 15 (IPS) – Just ahead of the World Health Assembly (WHA), an open letter from world leaders and experts dated May 18 urged governments to ensure that all COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests are in place are patent-free. fairly distributed and available to everyone free of charge.
Pious Promises Leaders of Italy, France, Germany, Norway and the European Commission called for the vaccine to be “made by the world for the whole world” as a “global public good of the 21st century,” while China’s President Xi promised a vaccine by China developed would be a “global public good”.
Anis Chowdhury The United Nations Secretary-General also insisted on having access to all when available. The WHA unanimously agreed that vaccines, treatments, and tests are global public goods, but were vague about the implications. As COVID vaccines have become available, nearly 70 poor countries will be left out. Many more people will be infected and possibly die without vaccinations, warns the People’s Vaccine Alliance, and advocates equitable and affordable access.
As a rich and powerful safe gateway, poor countries will leave most people out, as only 1 in 10 can be vaccinated in 2021, mocking the overarching principle of the Sustainable Development Goals of “leaving no one behind”.
Waiver of WTO rules
The authors of “Want Vaccines Fast? Suspend Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) argue that IPR is the main stumbling block. Meanwhile, South Africa and India have proposed that the World Trade Organization (WTO) temporarily waive its TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) rules, which restrict access to COVID-19 drugs, tools, equipment and vaccines .
The proposal, welcomed by the WHO Director General and supported by nearly 100 governments and many civil society organizations around the world, goes beyond the limited flexibility of the Doha Declaration for national emergencies and urgent circumstances.
Jomo Kwame SundaramBut Brazil, one of the hardest hit countries, is opposed to the proposal along with the US, EU, UK, Switzerland, Norway, Canada, Australia and Japan, insisting that the Doha Declaration is sufficient. The empire is fighting back
The US insists that intellectual property protection is best suited to ensure “fast delivery” while the EU claims that there is “no evidence that IPR issues are a real barrier to COVID-19” related drugs and technologies ”as the UK considered the proposal“ an extreme measure to address an unproven problem ”.
The director general of the Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations claims he would “jeopardize future medical innovations and make us more susceptible to other diseases” The Wall Street Journal denounced it as “A Global Covid Vaccine Heist” and warned “their efforts would harm everyone, including the poor”.
Citing AstraZeneca’s deal with the Serum Institute of India (SII) and Brazilian companies, other opponents claim that voluntary mechanisms should be enough and insist that the public-private COVAX initiative ensures fair and equitable access.
However, the US has refused to join COVAX, part of the WHO-blessed, donor-funded Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), which allegedly promotes “equitable global access to innovative tools for COVID-19 for everyone ”.
Intellectual Property Fraud
The Doha Declaration only applies to patents, ignoring proprietary technologies to safely manufacture vaccines. Meanwhile, there isn’t enough interest, let alone capacity, among leading pharmaceutical companies to safely and cheaply produce enough vaccines for everyone before 2024.
Despite the Doha Declaration, developing countries are still under great pressure from the EU and the US. The rules for “compulsory licensing” are very restrictive. Countries are required to separately negotiate contracts with companies for specific amounts, periods and purposes in order to deter and frequently evade those with limited financial and legal capacity.
South Africa cited the examples of Regeneron and Eli Lilly, who have already used most of their COVID-19 antibody cocktail drugs in the US. In India, Pfizer has legally blocked alternative pneumococcal vaccines from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). In South Korea, Pfizer forced SK Bioscience to stop production of its pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV).
Of course, patents are not required for innovations Harvard Business Review Showing the IPR law actually stifles it. Meanwhile, The Economist has condemned patent trolling, which has reduced venture capital investments in startups and R&D spending, especially by small businesses.
Like most other life-saving drugs and vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines and treatment technologies have a lot to do with public investment. Even the Trump administration provided vaccine development companies with $ 10.5 billion.
Moderna’s vaccine was born from a partnership with the National Institute of Health (NIH). Research at the NIH, the Department of Defense, and government-funded university laboratories was critical to the rapid development of US vaccines.
Pfizer has received a federal government grant of $ 455 million and purchase commitments of nearly $ 6 billion and the EU. AstraZeneca received more than £ 84 million (US $ 111 million) from the UK government and more than US $ 2 billion from the US and EU for research and orders.
While public funding is the norm for most drug and vaccine developments, Big Pharma typically retains the monopoly profits it derives from the intellectual property rights they retain.
Inadequate voluntary mechanisms
COVAX is aiming to source two billion doses of vaccine to be shared “equally” between rich and poor countries, but has only reserved 700,000 doses of vaccine so far, while the poorest countries of 1.7 billion people cannot afford a single deal. The rich countries have now secured six billion cans.
Even if COVAX gets its target of two billion vaccine doses, less than a billion will go to poor countries. If the vaccine requires two doses, as many – including Gavi, of the Vaccine Alliance – assume, it will only be enough for less than half a billion people.
ACT-A’s diagnostic work aims to procure 500 million tests, just a small fraction of what is required. Even if it’s fully funded, which it isn’t, it’s a partial solution at best.
But with the massive funding bottleneck, these modest goals will not be achieved either. So far, only $ 5 billion has been raised out of the $ 43 billion needed for poor countries in 2021.
By mid-October, when 18 generic companies signed up, not a single large pharmaceutical company had joined the WHO’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) to promote industry contributions to intellectual property, technology and data to increase worldwide exchange and production of all these needs.
In the meantime, some companies have “voluntarily” given up some intellectual property rights, albeit temporarily. Moderna has promised to license its COVID-19-related patents to other vaccine manufacturers and not enforce its own patents. However, its promise is limited so it can enforce its “post-pandemic” patents defined by Moderna.
Not only will Moderna’s promise benefit from the licensing in the longer term, it will also enable the growth of the new mRNA market on which its business is based by establishing and promoting a transformative drug therapy platform that will deliver profit for years to come.
AstraZeneca has announced that its vaccine, researched at Oxford University, will be available at cost in some locations, but only until July 2021. In the meantime, Eli Lilly has agreed with the Gates Foundation to deliver – without charging low or medium license fees – Income countries – his (still experimental) COVID-19 antibody treatment, but not specified how many doses.
Indeed, as Proudhon warned nearly two centuries ago, “property is theft”.
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