Patent monopolies on COVID-19 medical tools are preventing equitable access to life-saving treatments for this disease worldwide, including vaccines. The U.S., along with other rich countries, is blocking a proposal at the World Trade Organization (WTO) that would lift these patent monopolies, and in doing so is preventing the ramping up of production of vaccines necessary to end the pandemic everywhere.
PHM-USA joined over 400 organizations in the US calling on the Biden administration to support the waiver to lift the patents to get vaccines and treatments needed to the world.
Watch the press conference releasing the letter.
From Citizen Trade Campaign – February 26, 2021
More than 400 U.S. public health, faith, labor, development, human rights and other consumer groups are urging President Biden to reverse the Trump administration’s obstruction of an emergency COVID-19 waiver of World Trade Organization (WTO) intellectual property rules so that greater supplies of vaccines, treatments and test kits can be produced in as many places as possible as quickly as possible. That COVD pandemic cannot be stopped anywhere unless vaccines, tests and treatments are available everywhere, so that variants that evade current vaccines do not develop.“Supporting this waiver is an easy way for the Biden administration to start reestablishing the United States’ standing within the international community, while also benefiting public health and economic recovery here at home,” said Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign. “Trade rules cannot be a cudgel used to force countries into putting pharmaceutical company profits ahead of human life.”
The WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) requires countries to provide lengthy monopoly protections for medicines, tests, and the technologies used to produce them. While there is production capacity in every region, WTO rules block the timely and unfettered access to the formulas and technology needed to boost manufacturing. Unless much greater volumes are produced, many people in developing nations may not get access to COVID-19 vaccines for years. This threatens millions of lives around the world, while also harming the economy and increasing the likelihood of a viral mutation that prolongs the pandemic for everyone.
Citizens Trade Campaign, Doctors Without Borders, Health GAP, Oxfam and Public Citizen organized a letter from 431 U.S. civil society organizations calling on the Biden administration to join the more than 100 countries supporting the waiver. (Hundreds of organizations from developing countries have likewise called on President Biden to do the same.)
“If we want to stop COVID-19 here, we have to stop it everywhere. The world does not have time to wait for the usual, slow, and unequal distribution of treatments, diagnostics, and vaccines,” said Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners In Health. “We can take a lesson from the global AIDS movements and make sure patent laws don’t block access to lifesaving therapies for the poor. It’s a similar story for vaccines, which in the case of COVID-19 we’re so lucky to have and in such short order.
“Sharing the recipe for vaccines by pooling intellectual property and issuing global, open, and non-exclusive licenses could help scale up manufacturing and expand the number of vaccine doses made. This means instead of arguing about how to ration better we could be rationing less,” said Akshaya Kumar, director of crisis advocacy and special projects at Human Rights Watch.
“Defending monopoly protection is the antithesis to the current call for COVID-19 medicines and vaccines to be treated as global public goods. In these unprecedented times, governments should act together in the interest of all people everywhere,” said Yuangiong Hu, policy co-coordinator, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Access Campaign.