The Global Call to Action Against Poverty organised an international discussion on the state of the world’s access to health technologies to address the pandemic. The following is a statement by Marianella Kloka (member of pressenza’s greek editorial team).
Hello friends, greetings from Athens – Greece. I will do my best to be brief.
As European alliance for responsible R&D and affordable medicines we had the opportunity – since day one of the pandemic – to stress that “an effective response requires that all these necessary medical tools are free of charge at the point of delivery, particularly for vulnerable populations” and that “the EU institutions and national governments should incorporate collective, pro-public safeguards, such as transparency regarding public contributions, accessibility and affordability clauses and non-exclusive licenses for exploitation of end-result products, in current and future funding calls and investments.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, double messages where spread among the European leaders. On one hand they talked about “vaccines as public goods” and in several occasions, the European Commission talked about assisting the WHO TAP initiative.
When the first signs of developing vaccines arrived, the EC established for the first time a joint procurement mechanism in order to discuss with the western industry as a united market. That was EC’s one and only achievement during the pandemic, applied only for vaccines. Instead of highlighting to the pharmaceutical industry that European tax payers take over the risk of the research and development for those new medical tools, prices and the equivalence between public investments – public return was not at all transparent and the issue of TRIPS flexibilities found strong opposition among EU leaders, even at the time that USA’s president Joe Biden declared “in favor”. As a result, EU countries are vaccinated in a 75% but they straggle with variants, calling for boosts every 3-6 months and having their countries till today under restrictions. A Eurobarometer survey published last Thursday, reveals that only a 53% of respondents say they approve or partially approve of how the EU handled its vaccination strategy and this percentage should make political leaders to reflect.
In March 2022 came up the latest initiative of the EC, USA, India and South Africa that decided at last to talk about TRIPS flexibilities. This is an initiative coming after the one of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) to launch the BRICS Vaccine R&D Center, having as main objective to share best practices and strengthen practical cooperation in research, development, production and distribution of vaccines, in order to ensure their greater availability, as BRICS countries account for 40% of the global population. As European civil society organizations we welcome this late shift of the European leadership on TRIPS flexibilities, even though Germany seems reluctant. We just think that this initiative should be applied for all medical tools (and not only on vaccines). So, as Dimitri Eynikel from the MSF says, “we call all members of the World Trade Organization to remain vigilant to the fact that this leaked text contains considerable limitations, and needs to be urgently improved.”
Now concerning actions within the EU region:
We call all of you to consider supporting our European citizens Campaign called “No profit on the pandemic” by signing in the official website, in order to reach our goal of 1.000.000 signatures.
Today Médecins du Monde has submitted two third party patent observations against two patent applications on COVID-19 vaccines by BioNTech at the European Patent Office. They strongly believe that both of those patents would be undeserved since BioNTech has directly implemented existing knowledge from already developed vaccines for other coronaviruses and mRNA vaccines. Thus, an inventive step is clearly missing since the science has been already there.
Finally we ask you to navigate in this website, delivered by HAI, and share it with lawmakers, policymakers, researchers, and the public about how they can use TRIPS Flexibilities to improve access to patented medical tools. The information here is currently limited to European Union Member States, and focuses on the use of Compulsory Licensing, but geographical and topic scope will be wider over time.
Solidarity is a misused concept. We are far from understanding our common challenges as humanity, being currently divided and suffering from the illness of “personal interests” of the wealthy people and “regional interests” of the wealthy countries. Personally I think that this global consciousness, so much needed to overcome global challenges as pandemics, wars, starvation, climate crisis, energy crisis, nuclear catastrophes, meaningless lives, etc, is going to take shape sooner or later, as otherwise, we have no future in this planet. So I keep telling myself to stay positive, be patient and work hard proclaiming human rights and human living conditions for everyone independently of racial, social, sexual, religious, economic or other status.
Thank you very much for the attention.