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Press release European Citizens’ Initiative European campaign calls on European Commission to break private monopolies on COVID-19 vaccines

D 5 February 2021    


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The European Citizens’ Initiative ’Right to Cure’ , a coalition of over 170 European civil society organisations, including the European Network, aims to submit a legislative amendment to urge the European Commission to use their emergency powers and to leverage their massive public funding to put pressure on Pfizer/ BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna and other subsequently successful vaccine producers, to openly share their vaccine science and technology, to waive their patents and insist that all other major vaccine producers get involved in production.
This would be a solution to the current delayed production and global unequal access to vaccines worldwide, and would make governments worldwide less dependent on production capacity of a few pharmaceutical companies. To do this, the coalition needs to collect 1 million signatures.

This proposal is brought as a solution to the delays announced by vaccine manufacturers Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca, which have led to delays in vaccination campaigns in several European member states.

The supply of safe and effective vaccines for all is being artificially rationed because of the protection of exclusive rights and monopolies of pharmaceutical corporations, the People’s Vaccine Alliance said today.
The campaigners warned that the three biggest vaccine companies in the world are largely sitting on the sidelines - they currently plan to produce enough COVID-19 vaccines for only 1.5 per cent of the global population in 2021. A number of other large manufacturers are not yet producing any of the successful, proven COVID-19 vaccines. Globally, UNICEF data suggests just 43 per cent of reported COVID-19 vaccine production capacity is currently being used for the approved vaccines [1].

In the face of worldwide vaccine shortages and dramatic moves by the EU to restrict vaccine exports, the People’s Vaccine Alliance and the Right to Cure Citizens’ Initiative urge governments and the pharmaceutical industry to scale up production. It said they should remove the artificial barriers to tackling the global supply crisis, including by suspending intellectual property rules, sharing technology and ending monopoly control, so that everyone, everywhere has access to the vaccine as quickly as possible.

In the past, health crises have been tackled by addressing private intellectual property rights. Jonas Salk, the inventor of the polio vaccine, brought his invention to market without a patent. The disease has now been almost completely eradicated. Medicines to treat HIV were too expensive for many African countries for more than 10 years, resulting in millions of deaths. Eventually, a broad campaign forced pharmaceutical companies to drop their patents.

The campaign raises ethical questions about the current state of affairs: although the research and development of vaccines and treatments is largely paid for with public money, companies can still claim intellectual property rights and cash in billions of profits. This monopoly position guarantees enormous profits in the midst of a pandemic at the expense of human lives. Moreover, most of the proceeds from the sale of vaccines and medicines do not go to necessary research but to advertising and shareholders.
According to the ‘Right to Cure’ coalition, these examples show how the current profit model of pharmaceutical companies, based on exclusive property rights, prevents a fast and affordable distribution of vaccines. Given the large sums of public investment, the European Commission should make data on production costs, public contributions and the effectiveness and safety of vaccines and medicines.

More than 108 million people have been vaccinated so far, but only 4 percent of total vaccinations have been in developing countries, the vast majority of which have been in India. [2] Rich countries have bought up enough doses to vaccinate their populations three times over, leaving developing countries to compete for the leftovers. Analysis by the Peoples Vaccine Alliance has shown that the limited supply of the approved vaccines means that unless action is taken only one in ten people will be vaccinated by the end of the year in many developing countries.

Julie Steendam, coordinator of the European Citizens’ Initiative Right to Cure: "Public investments mean these are public goods, which should be used to benefit all humanity, not private property there to benefit shareholders. The European Commission must act now to override this broken system of patents, monopolies and secrecy to deliver a People’s Vaccine for all.”

The European Citizens’ Initiative can be signed here :
www.noprofitonpandemic.eu

Press Inquiries

For more information on the European Citizens’ Initiative Right to Cure, please contact Julie Steendam, European Coordinator, info@noprofitonpandemic.eu, +32497793527

Website www.noprofitonpandemic.eu
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Right2CureECI/
Twitter: @Right2Cure
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/right2cure_euinitiative/

For more information on the People’s Vaccine Alliance, please contact Sarah Dransfield, in the Oxfam press office, on + 44 (0)7884 114825 / email sdransfield@oxfam.org.uk or media@peoplesvaccine.org

Notes to editors

The Peoples’ Vaccine Alliance is a coalition of global and national organizations and activists united under a common aim of campaigning for a ‘People’s Vaccine’. The call for a People’s Vaccine is backed by past and present world leaders, health experts, faith leaders and economists. For more information visit: https://peoplesvaccine.org

A European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is a direct way for EU Citizens to propose a concrete legislative amendment to the European Commission. For an initiative to be considered by the Commission, you need to get 1 million people from across the EU to sign it in support.
The Right to Cure ECI is supported by over 170 health NGOs, trade unions and public health associations: https://noprofitonpandemic.eu/

Global deaths from COVID-19 according to : https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/daily-covid-deaths-region?time=2020-01-23..latest

Due to corporate secrecy it is unclear how much spare capacity exists, but the world’s COVID vaccine production capacity could be significantly expanded if all companies that were able to join the manufacturing effort, including critically developing country producers. Evidence shows this need not take time. Sanofi’s announcement that it will be making Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines by July 2021 demonstrates that transferring the vaccine technology and scaling up production can happen in a matter of months. It took the German Pharma firm BioNTech just four and a half months to repurpose a new plant to scale up production of COVID-19 vaccines. The example also shows that previous vaccine experience is not a necessity in making mRNA vaccines, meaning that the net can be cast much wider in the search for additional expert capacity if the intellectual property and technology is shared.

The figure of 1.5% is based on pledges from GSK & Sanofi to produce 100m & 125m doses respectively, which adds up to 225m doses. Both vaccines require 2 doses, so the reach would be 112m people, or 1.5% of the global population.

[1] Numbers taken from UNICEF vaccine dashboard https://www.unicef.org/supply/covid-19-vaccine-market-dashboard on 4th February
We compare projected production capacity for all Covid-19 vaccine candidates with the capacity for those vaccines that are already approved.

[2] As of 4th February, Bloomberg’s global vaccine tracker reported a total of 108 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered across 67 countries. Only 4.4 percent of vaccinations have been in developing countries, with 3.8 million of these vaccines being given in India. Of the poorest ‘low income’ countries, only 55 vaccines have been given in one country– Guinea. https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/covid-vaccine-tracker-global-distribution/

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