‘Drop the patents now’ – Boris Johnson accused of hypocrisy on Covid-19 vaccines ahead of G7 meeting

Thursday, 18 February, 2021
  • “We don’t want crocodile tears. On vaccines, on debt, on climate change: the world is demanding action”   

  • Johnson calls for more global manufacturing, but campaigners say only action on patents can make this possible

Campaigners have called on G7 leaders, who will hold a virtual meeting on Friday under the British presidency, to take urgent, concrete action to ramp up manufacturing of Covid-19 vaccines, cancel developing country debts, and invest in a green new deal.

Boris Johnson has announced that the meeting will focus on improving vaccine access, but campaigners claim this is hypocrisy as long as Britain and other G7 leaders block developing country proposals to waive global patent rules.(1)

Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said on vaccine inequality:

“The world is now divided into two – those countries that are rapidly vaccinating their people against Covid-19, and those that have no chance of achieving immunity for several years. Johnson is right that we need to ramp up manufacturing around the world, and we encourage Britain to support this effort. But we already have under-utilised production capacity. The elephant in the room is the patent system. While most countries are calling on the WTO to suspend patents so they can start producing more vaccines now, G7 governments, which have bought huge quantities of the vaccines available, are blocking this solution. It’s hypocrisy; they are putting corporate monopolies ahead of the lives of people across the world.”

Global Justice Now works as part of the People’s Vaccine Alliance which recently released information suggesting manufacturing capacity is currently severely under-utilised, with the biggest vaccine manufacturers in the world producing tiny amounts of the current proven vaccines as a result of the global patent system.(2)

Earlier this week more than 200 civil society organisations and trade unions from across the global south wrote to the UK government and other G7 countries to demand they end their opposition to the suspension of Covid-19 patents at the WTO.(3)

On the G7 meeting and global inequality and cooperation, Nick Dearden said:

“Inequality was at levels which undermined political stability even before this pandemic. Trump’s presidency was a product of this. Rather than simply celebrate his absence from this G7, leaders should learn the lessons of recent years or the situation will become catastrophic. That means we must stop putting Big Pharma’s patents ahead of lives, big banks’ debt payments ahead of livelihoods and fossil fuel corporations’ profits ahead of a sustainable existence on this planet.

“The G7 must agree to drop their opposition to the patent waiver, agree to compel the private sector to write down debts, and initiate very large-scale, coordinated investment in a green new deal. We don’t want crocodile tears. On vaccines, on debt, on climate change: the world is demanding action now.”

Notes

1. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/prime-minister-to-host-virtual-meeting-of-g7-leaders
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/no-consensus-at-wto-yet-on-ip-waiver-on-covid-19-vaccines-drugs/articleshow/80372808.cms

2. https://www.globaljustice.org.uk/news/2021/feb/5/monopolies-causing-artificial-rationing-covid-19-crisis-3-biggest-global-vaccine 

3. https://phmovement.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/UK_SouthCSOLetter_UK.pdf


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