Australian vaccine production hub should share technology and know-how for global vaccine justice
August 16, 2022: Yesterday the Australian and Victorian governments announced a 10-year contract for public funding for pharmaceutical company Moderna to partner with Monash University to produce mRNA vaccines in Australia.
The manufacturing project aims to protect Australians against future pandemics, support local industry and create highly skilled local jobs, all of which are welcome goals. The project follows a separate research initiative of Monash University and the Doherty Institute which is conducting clinical trials for a new generation vaccine designed to protect against the Omicron variant.
However the manufacturing contract is secret and it is not clear that public funds invested will assist in tackling the continuing shocking inequity in global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. While vaccination rates are 80-90 percent in high income countries, they are still only 20 per cent in low-income countries.
Millions are still dying because the few pharmaceutical companies can charge high monopoly prices on vaccines and treatments which rich countries can afford but low-income countries cannot. Addressing this inequity requires the sharing of technology and know-how for vaccines and treatments to increase global production at affordable prices.
The recent decision by the World Trade Organisation for restricted sharing of some intellectual property on vaccines only, but which delayed a decision on treatments and tests until December 2022, fall short of addressing this global need, and governments must do more.
AFTINET and six other national public health, aid and development and human rights organisations wrote to the new government last week urging them to make sharing of intellectual property technology and know-how a condition of government support for pharmaceutical companies manufacturing in Australia. This principle should apply to the Moderna manufacturing plant and to public funding for the development of the Monash/Dougherty Institute vaccine. The organisations also urged government to support:
- proposals from developing countries for a concerted WTO work program to ensure the WTO decision applies to tests and treatments by December 2022
- manufacturing hubs in developing countries
- provisions in the World Health Organization pandemic treaty that require the sharing of intellectual property for medical tools for future pandemics.