Campaigners condemn UK for putting Big Pharma profits ahead of coronavirus vaccine at WHO

Tuesday, 19 May, 2020

Global Justice Now today criticised Health Secretary Matt Hancock for failing to join world leaders in declaring a potential coronavirus vaccine to be a ‘public good’, and instead acting as a cheerleader for the pharmaceutical industry at the World Health Assembly, which concludes today. 

The campaign group pointed to the government’s efforts to water down the final World Health Assembly (WHA) resolution last week (1), and a poorly prepared speech by Hancock to the assembly yesterday in which he chose not to call for a potential vaccine to be treated as a public good, available to all as a right. 

Despite the high levels of public funds the UK has invested in finding a coronavirus vaccine, it has tried to undermine proposals to make any medicines produced common property. This has sparked concerns that pharmaceutical corporations could charge what they like for the medicines over the long-term, leaving much of the world unable to afford them.      

Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now said: 

“This is a gigantic failure of leadership. While countries from across the world have come together at the World Health Assembly to say coronavirus treatments and vaccines should be treated as a public good, provided patent-free to people on the basis of need, the British government has supported the pharmaceutical industry in its drive to profit from the coronavirus crisis. While they support market-driven schemes to help very poor countries purchase cheaper treatments from Big Pharma, the majority of the world will still not benefit from this approach. Pumping research into vaccines is only one part of the puzzle - unless you ensure that any eventual vaccines are patent-free, billions of people face being priced out. 

“We’ve seen from past crises that Big Pharma have put their own profits ahead of human need again and again. It’s time for a radically new way of delivering medicines – it’s a great shame the British government is not prepared to step up to this challenge.”   

Notes

1. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/17/us-and-uk-lead-push-against-global-patent-pool-for-covid-19-drugs


Image: World Health Organisation

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