REACTION: Campaigners congratulate WHO for sharing mRNA vaccine technology across world

REACTION: Campaigners congratulate WHO for sharing mRNA vaccine technology across world

Date: 23 February 2022
Campaigns: Pharma

  • “The pharmaceutical system is being remade from the ground up”
  • Demand Big Pharma ends its opposition, saying “the writing is on the wall”

Today the World Health Organization announced that five more countries will receive the technology they need to make mRNA vaccines [1]. Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, Serbia and Vietnam joined Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia, as well as South Africa whose mRNA technology transfer hub is researching the technology with a view to scaling up production right across the world. The WHO further announced that they are building a WHO training hub in South Korea to train low- and middle-income countries in the production of biological medicines.

The WHO has made explicit that the implications of this work go well beyond Covid-19 and would help speed up the development, production and distribution of a range of vaccines as well as insulin and cancer treatments. It could help treat or prevent diseases which have long plagued lower income countries but which have failed to attract the attention of the profit-hungry pharmaceutical industry, like malaria and tuberculosis.

But companies like Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech, which are currently making mRNA vaccines, have been condemned by campaigners for their refusal to share their recipes, patents or know-how, meaning the technology will take longer to develop. Earlier this month, companies were accused of trying to undermine the hub [2], while South African campaigners expressed alarm that Moderna was trying to register patents in South Africa [3].

Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now said:

“This is a game-changer. The pharmaceutical system is being remade from the ground up by lower and middle income countries. These countries have seen the damage that reliance on the profit-hungry big pharmaceutical corporations has done. While some countries have barely received any Covid-19 vaccines, rich nations are throwing millions of doses in the bin, and the three big corporations producing mRNA vaccines are raking in $1,000 a second in profit.

“It’s time to end this obscenity. The rules of the global economy have failed the vast majority of countries. But these countries are now starting to build a new, fairer and more democratic system, which will give them the control they need to make medicines and put their people first. The British government, which has shamefully over-ordered doses while donating a minute amount of vaccines, needs to change course, and back these initiatives. And Big Pharma needs to see that the writing is on the wall, and rather than hoard the technology we need to save millions of lives, they need to share it.”

Notes

[1] Moving forward on goal to boost local pharmaceutical production, WHO establishes global biomanufacturing training hub in Republic of Korea, 23 February 2022, https://www.who.int/news/item/23-02-2022-moving-forward-on-goal-to-boost-local-pharmaceutical-production-who-establishes-global-biomanufacturing-training-hub-in-republic-of-korea

[2] Covid-19: WHO efforts to bring vaccine manufacturing to Africa are undermined by the drug industry, documents show, BMJ, 9 February 2022, https://www.bmj.com/content/376/bmj.o304

[3] Moderna patent application raises fears for Africa COVID vaccine hub, Reuters, 17/02/22, https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/moderna-patent-application-raises-fears-africa-covid-vaccine-hub-2022-02-17/

Global Justice Now is a UK-based campaigning organisation and part of the People’s Vaccine Alliance.

Media contact
For more information call +44 (0)7932 335 464 or email nick.dearden@globaljustice.org.uk


Photo: Elenarts/Shutterstock

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