Message from Medecins Sans Frontières
World Trade Organisation
Pharmaceutical company patent monopolies are the elephant in the room in the debate about Covid-19 vaccine shortages in Australia.
Most of debate locally has been about whether the federal government ordered enough vaccine doses last year from Pfizer and other companies. This misses the broader point that a handful of pharmaceutical companies control both the price and quantity of vaccines.
Even in the context of a global pandemic, they can set the terms in closed-door negotiations with rich countries. These companies have already made billions from vaccines which were developed at record speeds and supported with public funds.
Dr Patricia Ranald, AFTINET Convenor, explains the situation in today's the Guardian online.
MEDIA RELEASE July 19, 2021
An unusually wide range of national church, public health, aid and development and other civil society groups representing millions of Australians today sent the attached open letter to Government Ministers. The letter urges them to support the proposal for a temporary waiver of patent monopolies on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments that will be discussed at a key meeting of the World Trade Organisation on July 20.
July 14, 2021: German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces US protests tomorrow at her government’s opposition to the suspension of 20-year monopoly patents on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments at the World Trade Organisation. A “die-in” will be staged with a giant Merkel puppet lurking over dozens of body bags representing the millions of lives on the line.
July 12, 2021: More than 50,000 Australians have signed petitions asking the Australian Government to support changes to trade rules that would help most people in the world get access to COVID-19 vaccines. Negotiations have started and the Australian government still has not done so. We need to increase the pressure and tell our local MPs to support these changes.
June 30, 2021: Current trade rules give pharmaceutical companies 20-year monopoly patents on COVID-19 vaccines and other medical products, which are delaying access for low-income countries. This is why over 100 WTO member countries are supporting the South African and Indian proposals for a temporary waiver of these rules during the pandemic.
June 14, 2021: The European Parliament passed a resolution on June 10, 2021, that supported negotiations for a temporary waiver of some WTO rules on patents to improve global access to affordable COVID-19-related medical products and to address global production constraints and supply shortages.
June 10, 2021: Médecins sans Frontières has welcomed the opening of text-based negotiation at the World Trade Organisation as a major breakthrough for South Africa, India and 63 sponsoring low- and middle-income countries, supported by over 100 countries in total. The revised proposal seeks suspension of patent monopoly rights for COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and equipment during the pandemic.