Global Covid-19 vaccine shortages are leaving people in low-income countries vulnerable to the virus and all of us all vulnerable to the emergence of new variants. Today, at Prime Minister’s Question Time, I asked Boris Johnson to put people before patents and join more than a hundred other countries in supporting an intellectual property waiver on vaccine patents.
Whilst shareholders rake in enormous vaccine profits, they are now effectively holding life-saving vaccine blueprints hostage. There is also increasing evidence that pharmaceutical companies are charging low-income countries over the odds and profiteering.
Not a single patent holder has volunteered to share technology through the WHO’s Covid Technology Access Pool (C-TAP). Meanwhile, Covid-19 vaccines were made possible almost entirely by public money and international scientific cooperation, including the 97% publicly funded Astra Zeneca vaccine – contrary to Boris Johnson’s bluster. Even more than the billions of pounds of government funding poured into Covid-19 research during the pandemic, it was decades of publicly funded research that laid the groundwork for these vaccines.
Vaccines were funded by all and they should be free to all. At a time when the world’s poorest countries have received just 0.3% of the world’s vaccine doses, we must do everything we can to protect lives and protect the world from new variants. That starts with a global IP waiver on Covid vaccine patents to ramp up supply.
I recently wrote for Labour Outlook about the need to suspend vaccine patents.