Access to Covid-19 vaccines & medicines must be affordable for all
GUE/NGL statement on the WHO’s ‘73rd World Health Assembly’.
Intellectual property and patent rights are threatening many countries’ access to medicines and vaccines for treating Covid-19 – especially the poorest ones. Such rights cover both products and technologies (medicinal drugs, vaccines, etc.), which mean once a life-saving drug or vaccine is discovered, large parts of the world’s population will have no access to the treatment due to high prices or commercial policies and limitations imposed by a company.
Such a scenario would be disastrous, not only in the fight against the pandemic – which requires a coordinated global approach – but also the impact on humanity as a whole. It will also aversely undermine the fundamental concept of international solidarity and cooperation – both of them more necessary than ever during times of global crises.
To overcome this, many countries including the EU and its member states, as well as China, have proposed and passed a resolution at the World Health Organization’s (WHO) General Assembly that includes the “Costa Rica plan”. The proposal includes setting up an international body headed by the W.H.O. by incorporating funding from rich countries and other donors, and which will acquire the patents for the vaccines and make them available, free of charge, to all interested parties (states etc.). This will enable the production for Covid-19 treatment at affordable prices.
The ‘Costa Rica Plan’ may yet set the precedence for addressing the overall issue of high prices caused by intellectual property rights, as well as access to health-related technologies. The only country that is strongly opposed to the plan is the United States of America, citing the importance of intellectual property as an incentive to innovate, but more likely as a way to protect its pharmaceutical industry.
Our group reaffirms the belief that all intellectual property for innovations to combat Covid-19 must come under the public domain. We must ensure that when EU public money is spent on research and development, the results will not be bound by intellectual property rights due to the negative consequences, impact on price and patient accessibility.
In addition, we emphasise the importance of public research and cooperation on an international level, and we express our concerns over the dominant role played by multinationals in the pharmaceutical sector. We therefore call on all pharmaceutical companies to pool their data and knowledge in a collective effort to identify, test, develop and manufacture vaccines and treatments to curb Covid-19 immediately. The establishment of additional funding for a ‘Covid-19 Research and Innovation Fund’ to boost its efforts to finance speedy research on a vaccine or treatment is absolutely crucial.
Health is a fundamental human right. No one should be left behind in our fight against the virus. It is therefore critical that we seize the opportunity now by taking advantage of all possible legal exceptions in favour of public health, in the most flexible way possible, and in a way that would lead to the greater protection of our citizens’ wellbeing. If even one person’s life is endangered, then no one is safe.
Our demand is simple: access to vaccines and medicine that treat Covid-19 with transparency for all, and at accessible prices for all countries.