Boris Johnson must stand up to Big Pharma at global vaccine summit

Thursday, 4 June, 2020

Campaigners are calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to put his money where his mouth is at today's UK-hosted Global Vaccine Summit [1] by making public funding for a coronavirus vaccine conditional on guarantees that people around the world will receive it. 

 Johnson today calls for "a new era of global health cooperation" which he says is “the most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes” [2], but his government has so far failed to apply any conditions to the more than £500 million of public funds put towards research and development into the virus. Without conditions, there are no guarantees that the pharmaceutical industry will charge affordable prices for any vaccines. 
 
A new Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) facility will be launched by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, at the summit, where Johnson is giving a keynote address. The facility will raise money to scale up manufacturing for a future Covid-19 vaccine through advanced purchase commitments, as well as secure supplies for a set of developing countries.  
 
Global Justice Now is calling on the Prime Minister to ensure that any funding raised to purchase Covid-19 vaccines for developing countries has conditions attached to lock in an affordable price.  
 
Funding from the facility should have conditions that ensure pharmaceutical companies offer Covid-19 vaccines patent-free to enable a diversity of suppliers that can supply at cost-prices. Companies must also commit to sharing their know-how with other countries to increase global manufacturing capability. Business-as-usual means pharmaceutical monopolies and these will lead to high prices and restricted supplies. 
 
Heidi Chow, Global Justice Now campaigner said:  
“If no conditions are attached to this facility, it will simply become a giant hand-out to big pharma. The Prime Minister needs to use his role as the summit host to work with Gavi and push for conditions to prevent monopolies, otherwise big pharma will be free to dictate whatever price they want while restricting supply. There should be no profiteering during a global pandemic.  
 
“Governments around the world are already pouring billions into vaccine research and development but there are no safeguards that ensure any publicly funded vaccine will be produced patent-free. Any vaccine developed must be a global public good and therefore patent-free so that it is affordable for all countries and free to every person.” 
 
Notes

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/global-vaccine-summit-2020/about  

[2] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-britain-vaccines/british-pm-johnson-hosts-global-vaccine-summit-calls-for-funding-idUSKBN23A3BG


Photo: Andrew Parsons/No 10 Downing Street

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