37 countries back WHO’s new COVID-19 Technology Access Pool - medicines as global public goods

June 5, 2020: Thirty-seven countries supported the formal launch on May 29, 2020, of the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), an initiative to increase access to knowledge needed to produce vaccines, tests, treatments and other health technologies to fight COVID-19. The Pool was first proposed in March by President Carlos Alvarado of Costa Rica.

“Vaccines, tests, diagnostics, treatments and other key tools in the coronavirus response must be made universally available as global public goods,” said President Alvarado. “The COVID-19 Technology Access Pool will ensure the latest and best science benefits all of humanity.”

“Global solidarity and collaboration are essential to overcoming COVID-19,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Based on strong science and open collaboration, this information-sharing platform will help provide equitable access to life-saving technologies around the world.”

However, the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and the EU Commission, hosts to most of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies which have poured billions into COVID-19 vaccine research, have failed to publicly support the C-TAP. Big pharma companies have largely dismissed the initiative. But individual European countries including the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway and Luxembourg are supporting it.

WHO and the co-sponsoring countries have also issued a “Solidarity Call to Action” to ask governments, donors, researchers, industry, and civil society to join and support the initiative.

Five key elements to the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool Initiative

“The Solidarity Call to support C-TAP is far broader than in scope than patents, calling for sharing essentially everything that is necessary for additional companies to also produce those products that are found to be effective against COVID-19,” said a spokesperson from Unitaid, founder of the Medicines’ Patent Pool and one of WHO’s major partners on the initiative.

“In this way, it will be easier to meet the global demand, which is expected to be huge and beyond the manufacturing/supply capacity of any single company,” the spokesperson told Health Policy Watch.

There are five key elements to C-TAP:

  1. Public disclosure of gene sequences and data;
  2. Transparency around the publication of all clinical trial results;
  3. Governments and other funders are encouraged to include clauses in funding agreements with pharmaceutical companies and other innovators about equitable distribution, affordability and the publication of trial data;
  4. Licensing any potential treatment, diagnostic, vaccine or other health technology to the Medicines Patent Pool – a United Nations-backed public health body that works to increase access to, and facilitate the development of, life-saving medicines for low- and middle-income countries.
  5. Promotion of open innovation models and technology transfer that increase local manufacturing and supply capacity, including through joining the ‘Open COVID’ Pledge and the Technology Access Partnership (TAP).

C-TAP will serve as a sister initiative to the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and other initiatives to support efforts to fight COVID-19 worldwide.

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley made a passionate appeal on behalf of Small Island States to support the call.

“Access to new data and health products to treat and prevent COVID-19 must not create winners and losers, and small states, who are often the casualties of market conditions, cannot be dispensable in the wake of this disease,” said Mottley. “We cannot command large types of orders in order to be able to guarantee access because of our lack of size.”

Argentina, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bhutan, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Egypt, Honduras, Indonesia, Lebanon, the Maldives, Mexico, Mongolia, Mozambique, Norway, Oman, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Dominican Republic, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Timor Leste, Uruguay and Zimbabwe have come out in support of the call.