Drop Covid Vaccine Patent Rules to Save Lives in Poorest Countries, UK, Germany Says | Coronavirus
Britain and Germany came under intense pressure on Saturday to drop their resistance to proposals that would lower the cost of Covid-19 vaccines, following accusations that a G7 summit deal to fund $ 1 billion. doses would give the poorest countries in the world “crumbs of the table”.
Aid agencies have said rules that protect drug patents from illegal copying must be lifted during the pandemic to accelerate vaccine deployment and save lives in the developing world.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told G7 leaders in Cornwall on Saturday that a temporary lifting of patents on the Covid-19 vaccine was essential to save lives among the 1.2 billion Africans.
In what is seen as a repeat of the 1990s dispute over the high cost of retroviral HIV drugs to African countries, activists said countries like the UK and Germany that are home to manufacturers of HIV successful vaccines are expected to support a patent sharing agreement.
Oxfam warned that failure to secure agreement on relinquishing vaccine patents to reduce the price of each dose would mean at least a 10-fold increase in the overall cost to poor countries.
The United States and France have joined more than 100 countries in asking major vaccine makers to waive their patent rights to allow rapid manufacture of vaccine doses at a fraction of the current cost.
US President Joe Biden backed the proposal, which would see Moderna deliver doses of the vaccine at cost to poorer countries.
But the UK refused to do the same. A spokesperson for Boris Johnson said the PM preferred individual countries to secure low-cost commitments from vaccine suppliers, as the UK did in a deal with AstraZeneca, rather than reach global agreement to lift vaccine patents.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also rejected the move, saying it would deter pharmaceutical companies from investing in drugs and create “serious complications” for vaccine production. German officials have complained that trade barriers imposed by Britain and the United States on medical supplies have proven to be a greater obstacle to vaccine production.
Jürgen Trittin, member of the Greens and former Minister of the Environment, told German news agency DW that the lifting of vaccine patents was not a solution: “Producers have their cooperation partners even in the South. The problem is the barriers to exporting. And these obstacles come from the US and also from the UK… so, I think it’s a bit of a blame game, a scapegoat game, that Joe Biden is playing here.
Germany is home to two of the three top-performing vaccine developers – Pfizer / BioNTech and CureVac – which produce vaccines with high efficacy rates and, unlike the vaccine manufactured by AstraZeneca, are easy to manufacture. The CureVac vaccine is expected to be cleared by the regulator for use in the coming weeks.
The American company Moderna also uses the new mRNA technology adopted by BioNtech / Pfizer and CureVac. The founders of Biontech and Moderna have become multibillionaires in the last year after the successful vaccine deployment program.
Boris Johnson has offered to share 100 million of the 500 million doses purchased by the UK as part of a G7 plan under discussion to distribute 1 billion doses to poor countries by the end of the year . The US contribution in total is 500 million doses.
The charity Global Justice Now has called the UK donations a “public relations gimmick” that will allow the G7 to ignore the structural problem of intellectual property rules that are causing vaccine shortages.
He praised Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron for supporting an intellectual property waiver.
Nick Dearden, the association’s director, said: “Boris Johnson’s lofty promises to vaccinate the world have today been dashed like a surfer in Carbis Bay.
“The UK bought 500 million doses of vaccine; far beyond what we need. And yet today we are only proposing to give doses of 100 million to the rest of the world – and only by the middle of next year. It’s little more than a public relations gimmick.
“Intellectual property rules limit vaccine production to the supply chains of a handful of companies. This weekend, Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel can finally take over, follow Biden’s lead and break down those barriers, so we can vaccinate the whole world.
World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said following a meeting with G7 leaders at the summit that a temporary waiver of the intellectual property underlying the new vaccines was “essential” to achieving WHO’s goal of immunizing 70% of the world’s population by next year’s G7 summit.
He said: “We are in the race of our lives, but it is not a fair race and some have not yet left the starting line. I think the renunciation of intellectual property is essential. Considering the challenges we are currently facing, this is very important. the [pharma companies] should not aim for high profits.
“But it’s not about taking ownership of the private sector. We have offered high-income countries a set of incentives so that there can be a balance between government support and the sense of social responsibility of the private sector. “
Tedros said the world’s dependence on a few vaccines produced by a handful of pharmaceutical companies was an example of a “market failure” that needed to be addressed by governments. While the WHO had worked hard to bring down the price of vaccine doses and encourage the distribution of doses to poorer countries through Covax’s global distribution network, it was wrong that many decisions regarding the number of vaccines in production and cost of vaccines have been in the private hands of a few.
“When there is a market failure, there should be an entity involved. And when that doesn’t happen, governments should step in. ”