EU-UK vaccine dispute ‘first of many’ unless patents suspended, say campaigners

Friday, 29 January, 2021
  • Big business should not have the power to decide who is vaccinated first

  • Campaigners call for warring parties to work together to ramp up supply 

Global Justice Now warned today that the dispute between the EU and Britain will be a dangerous sign of things to come unless there is a radical shake-up in the way vaccines are produced. The organisation called for the immediate suspension of patents on Covid-19 vaccines, and an international plan to ramp up production as rapidly as possible, alongside distribution based on need, not wealth. 

Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said: 
“The speed with which scientists have discovered these vaccines is awe-inspiring, but we fear the dispute between the EU and Britain is a worrying sign of things to come. Big business should not have the power to decide who is vaccinated first. Unless we fundamentally change who controls the supply of vaccines, this dispute will be the first of many and could lead the world down a dangerous path.

“There is a lot of focus on what will happen to the current limited doses, but the bigger question is why are we allowing big pharma’s patents to artificially limit the supply of these vital vaccines? Every available manufacturer in the world should be producing these vaccines, and governments should be doing whatever it takes to increase manufacturing capacity for the whole world. Instead a handful of massively wealthy corporations are now deciding who gets the vaccines first, based on keeping the customer satisfied, not on saving people’s lives. This will continue to fuel suspicion and to pit countries against each other. 

“European countries are discovering what the rest of the world has long known: big pharma puts profits before people. While the EU and Britain argue about who gets vaccines first, many countries in the world have never so much as sniffed a vaccine. It’s frankly disgusting that very healthy young people in wealthy countries are being put ahead of desperately vulnerable people in lower income countries. What we need is an international plan to produce and distribute as many vaccines as we can, as quickly as we can, to those who most need them first. Brussels and London should learn from this situation, suspend patents, and work together to ramp up supply now.”

The governments of South Africa and India have proposed that the World Trade Organisation suspends trade rules governing intellectual property rights over Covid-19 vaccines and treatments until the pandemic is brought under control. Both the EU and UK have opposed the proposal, which is due for further consideration in March.(1)

Notes

1. Developing Nations Push for Covid-19 Vaccines Without the Patents, https://www.wsj.com/articles/developing-nations-push-for-covid-vaccines-without-the-patents-11605614409


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