20 January 2021. At the initiative of the office of the former Minister of Health, Andreas Xanthos, a very interesting discussion was organized on the subject of vaccines, of patents, the EU’s position and that of the member states, the overall supplies of vaccines, and bilateral additional agreements. On the panel, apart from him, were the MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis, Professor George Papanikolaou, the policy manager of the European Public Health Alliance,  Giannis Natsis, and Apostolos Veizis from Doctors without Borders. Some important interventions were made by Katerina Antoniou, former President of the EOF (National Organization for Medicines), and Yannis Kalomenidis, pulmonologist and head of the COVID-19 team at Evangelismos Hospital. The discussion was moderated by Panos Papadopoulos.

The discussions were centered around the following subjects: the joint procurements made by the EU countries, patents and the vaccines, the secret agreements between the EU and the pharmaceutical companies, the lack of transparency in general on the subject, the inability to cover vaccination needs according to the present schedule which the European Commission had drawn up, the lack of coordination between states globally with the international patents pool which the World Health Organization had created and also, the inability to defend a different proposal, similar to the initiative for medicines for neglected diseases where they co-exist with specific roles both public and private initiatives, for the benefit of public health.

Regarding the proposals that were made, I noted the following:

  1. MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis’ commitment to create a wider European political front to establish a different status for pharmaceutical/vaccine patents, especially when a large part of the research and development is carried out with the money of European taxpayers.
  2. In this context, Professor Yorgos Papanikolaou’s proposal to fund a full investigation into how much public money has been invested in pharmaceutical research and development so that all of us in the EU know where our money has gone and if we will end up buying again the results of an innovation which we have already paid for. As Mr. Papanikolaou said, “We owe this to the European taxpayers.”

You can see the full discussion here.

Last summer, even before the debate on the availability of vaccines flared up, the Greek collaborative team, Contentativa, created a video-alert which they sent to policymakers in Greece, with the aim of raising awareness about vaccine patents in case of a pandemic.

We can use the English version of the video:

Translation by Jeannette A. Arduino,  from the voluntary Pressenza translation team. We are looking for volunteers!