Want to know more about the politics and the science behind Covid vaccines? You’ve come to the right place! Here’s a round-up of articles and reports giving you insight and analysis on vaccine politics and science
4th June 2021
Seven Reasons the EU is Wrong to Oppose the TRIPS Waiver | Human Right Watch
As the Covid-19 pandemic has devastating human rights, social, and economic consequences across the globe, European Union (EU) representatives have repeatedly stated their commitment to the idea that Covid-19 vaccines should be a universal common good and that no one is safe from Covid-19 unless everyone is safe. Yet the EU has consistently opposed India and South Africa’s proposal for the TRIPS Waiver. The arguments used by the European Commission to justify its opposition are inaccurate, misleading, and misguided. Human Right Watch addresses them. Read on here
The TRIPS Intellectual Property Waiver Proposal: Creating the Right Incentives in Patent Law and Politics to end the COVID-19 Pandemic | LSE – study
This paper elucidates the legal issues surrounding the ‘TRIPS waiver’ proposal initially put forward by India and South Africa in October 2020, which, as of May 2021, is supported by more than 60 states. LSE explains why the existing TRIPS flexibilities around compulsory licensing are incapable of addressing the present pandemic context adequately, both in terms of procedure and legal substance. The study also offer two arguments on why the TRIPS waiver is an essential legal instrument for enabling a radical increase in manufacturing capacity, and hence supply, of COVID-19 vaccines, creating a pathway to achieve global equitable access. Read on here
If EU blocks vaccine waivers, it can drop ‘solidarity’ talk | EuObserver
Europe’s experience through the last global financial crisis demonstrates the dangers which arise when business interests are put ahead of social rights. We all know the Covid recovery cannot be a return to normal. If EU leaders really want a fairer Europe, they must stop clinging to the back-dated and broken ideas which stunted recovery from the last crisis. By putting corporate interests ahead of the public interest, the EU is doing lasting damage to its reputation; both locally and on the global stage. It’s time to make solidarity more than just a buzzword. Read on here
26th May 2021
Reaction by civil society organisations (C20) to the Rome Declaration of Principles released by the Global Health Summit | C20. The official global civil society platform C20 engaging with the G20, reacts to the Global Health Summit declaration. The group of civil society organisations warns that despite ambitious language from world leaders on equitable and rapid distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments there remains a concerning disconnect between words and deeds. Read on here.
Eight Reasons Why The Intellectual Property (IP) Waiver For COVID-19 Vaccines and Treatments Will Work | Access to Medicines Ireland. Find out the eight key reasons why the IP waiver can turn around this pandemic and ensure equal access to vaccine, treatment and diagnostics for all. Read on here.
Covid vaccine profits mint 9 new pharma billionaires | CNN. Covid-19 vaccines have created at least nine new billionaires after shares in companies producing the shots soared. According to a new analysis of the People’ Vaccine Alliance the new billionaires include Moderna (MRNA) CEO Stéphane Bancel and Ugur Sahin, the CEO of BioNTech (BNTX), which has produced a vaccine with Pfizer (PFE). Both CEOs are now worth around $4 billion. Read on here.
19th May 2021
Documents reveal pharma plot to stop generic Covid-19 vaccine waiver | The Intercept.
The pharmaceutical industry is distributing talking points, organizing opposition, and even collecting congressional signatures in an attempt to reverse President Joe Biden’s support for worldwide access to generic Covid-19 vaccines. Read on here.
Ellen ‘T Hoen on Waiving Patents to Support Global Access to COVID Vaccines | The Law Bytes Podcast.
The global struggle for access to COVID-19 vaccines took a dramatic turn as the Biden Administration unexpectedly reversed its longstanding opposition to a patent waiver designed to facilitate access to vaccines in the developing world. Ellen ‘t Hoen, is a lawyer and public health advocate with over 30 years of experience working on pharmaceutical and intellectual property policies. She joins the Lawbytes podcast this week to talk about the fight for a patent waiver and the implications of the Biden decision for global access to COVID vaccines. Listen to the podcast here.
Corporations should not have the power to undermine the Global Battle Against Covid-19 | Inequality.org.
If approved by the World Trade Organization (WTO), the TRIPS waiver will make it easier for many countries to produce their own vaccines at a time when high-income countries control more than 80 percent of the vaccines and only 0.3 percent have gone to low-income countries. But even if governments reach an agreement at the WTO, the fight unfortunately might not end there. Companies could still appeal to supranational arbitration in tribunals, such as the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Read on here.
May 13, 2021
The world after the pandemic: the high stakes of the Global Health Summit | MicroMega (in Italian). If we don’t want to end up in a much more unfair world the global economy will need to be less unequal and divisive. We will never reach “prosperity for people and planet” – the motto of the Italian G20 if commercial exchanges are not recalibrated to ensure the rights of people and planet. After all, a dead world is a bad investment for everyone. Read on here.
The Commission’s pharma echo chamber | Corporate Europe Observatory. Who meets the European Commission to discuss the scarcity of COVID vaccines and medicines in Europe and globally? An investigation of recent meetings show a disconcerting pattern: only those not questioning big pharma’s monopoly on patents seem to be allowed in. Read on here
Trips waiver: there’s more to the story than vaccine patents | The Conversation. The US has announced its limited support for the “Trips waiver” departing from its previous antagonism towards other countries’ public health measures that affect intellectual property rights. Nonetheless this is only a starting point which needs to extend beyond patents to sharing of trade secrets, information covered by non-disclosure agreements, as well as regulatory submissions, such as clinical trial data. This would not only spur competition it would also provide the basis for further innovation. Read on here
The unexpected European dilemma: Support the US — or Big Pharma? | Investigate Europe. For seven months during a raging pandemic, Europe and the US have ignored a demand by over 100 countries to release patents related to Covid-19 products. This week, the US government announced a sudden about-turn on its stance, which was met with praise from many EU officials and governments. Investigate Europe documents how governments opposed the waiver fiercely until the very last moment. Read on here.
May 5, 2021
India is burning, and the West keeps hoarding vaccines | Politico. Sanka Chandima Abayawardena from the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) makes some powerful connections between the coronavirus pandemic response and the racist and colonial world order, calling on the EU Commission to support the TRIPS waiver. Read on here.
Can the world collaborate amid vaccine nationalism? | Observer Research Foundation. The COVID-19 pandemic has mutated into a global political economy crisis, with new fault lines emerging along market shares and intellectual property regimes. The uncertainty of the virus is being overshadowed by the growing uncertainty from vaccine nationalism. The challenge now is to expand vaccine production capacity and improve market access, which cannot be left to voluntary cooperation alone and must be resolved through global leadership to urgently transcend existing fractures. Read on here.
The West Has Been Hoarding More Than Vaccines | The New York Times. A short-term TRIPS waiver would allow developing nations to quickly ramp up vaccine production and save lives at an affordable cost. While there is mounting support for a TRIPS waiver, its opponents are formidable. The big pharmaceutical companies are in the forefront, with the support of industry groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Telecommunications Industry Association. They fear that even a brief loosening of intellectual-property rules could establish a precedent for future emergencies. A threat to TRIPS is a threat to future riches, it seems. Read on here.
Vaccinating the World Waiving Intellectual Property Rules on COVID-19 Products | Global Development Policy Centre – Boston University. This policy brief outlines the shortcomings of the current approach to global vaccination for COVID-19, how the TRIPS waiver could overcome these challenges, and counterarguments to the waiver. It concludes that supporting the TRIPS Waiver is the best way for WTO members to advance a global vaccination program, and would be most effective with additional financing to develop regional manufacturing facilities and incentives to ensure pharmaceutical companies share patents, industrial designs, and technology. Read on here.
April 28, 2021
Bill Gates says no to sharing vaccine formulas with global poor to end pandemic | Salon. Bill Gates, one of the world’s richest men and most powerful philanthropists, was the target of criticism from social justice campaigners on Sunday. Gates argued that lifting patent protections on Covid-19 vaccine technology and sharing recipes with the world to foster a massive ramp up in manufacturing and distribution – despite a growing international call to do exactly that – is a bad idea. Read on here.
It’s not just about patents on COVID vaccines: why I am not celebrating World Intellectual Property Day | LSE blogs. On World Intellectual Property Day, 26 April, Siva Thambisetty (LSE) explains why she will not be celebrating. The controversy over suspending COVID vaccine patents is just the latest example of acute misalignment and injustices driven by current IP law. Far from being an unmistakable force for good, she argues, patents reward certain kinds of creativity over others and privilege corporate power at the expense of those who cannot afford to defend their rights and assert their contribution. Read on here.
Socialist, The People’s Party, Ciudadanos and Vox in the EU Parliament vote against the lifting of patents for Covid-19 vaccines | El Salto (in Spanish). During the debate on the Green Digital Certificates in the EU parliament, four political groups voted down amendments presented by The Left aimed at guaranteeing universal access to vaccines. This Friday, the WTO’s Trade Related aspect of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) Council will meet after increasing demands from all over the world to support a waiver of intellectual property rights. Almost 400 members of parliament, both at national and European level, 180 Nobel Laureates, and former heads of state have backed the TRIPS waiver proposal put forward by India and South Africa. Read on here (in Spanish).
April 21, 2021
The last time a vaccine saved America | New Yorker.
Sixty-six years ago, people in the USA celebrated the polio vaccine by embracing in the streets. The vaccine story of our time is both more extraordinary and more complicated. Read on here.
Big pharma lobby’s self-serving claims block global access to vaccines | Corporate Europe Observatory.
Corporate Europe Observatory has uncovered new documents from December 2020 which reveal how big pharma lobby group EFPIA (the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations) has influenced the Commission’s stance on intellectual property rights and patents. Read on here.
Pfizer backs down over “unreasonable” terms in South Africa vaccine deal | The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Pfizer has backed down over its controversial demand that the South African government put up sovereign assets guaranteeing an indemnity against the cost of any future legal cases. During Covid-19 vaccine negotiations, the company sought indemnity against civil claims from citizens who had experienced adverse vaccine effects – meaning that the South African government would have to cover the costs instead. Read on here.
A diverse group of funds and investment banks own AstraZeneca | EL PAÍS (in Spanish)
Ownership of the European vaccine producer is highly fragmented, no one owns more than 2%. Among the shareholders there is Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and the giant Fidelity. Read on here (in Spanish) .
AstraZeneca Covid vaccine research “was 97% publicly funded” – The Guardian
The overwhelming majority of the money, especially in the early stages of the research, came from UK government departments, British and American scientific institutes, the European commission and charities including the Wellcome Trust. Less than 2% of the identified funding came from private industry, the researchers said, a finding they said posed a challenge to the views of people such as Boris Johnson, who has said that the record-fast development of Covid-19 vaccines was “because of capitalism, because of greed” Read on here
April 14, 2021
Abuse of power by Big Pharma drives the EU ‘Jab Race’ – Domani, op-ed by Corporate European Observatory
The European debate on how to handle the pandemic could use a dose of honesty. The past weeks we have witnessed a reviving “vaccine-nationalism”, with EU-member states purchasing jabs wherever they can and the EU discussing to stop exports at it’s borders. We see a failing European vaccination-strategy and a complete self-defeating lack of solidarity with the global south. Two issues that connect all these dots, are the root causes of the painful failure we all observe: a lack of transparency and a unhealthy power grab of EU-policies by Big Pharma. Read on here in English, and here in Italian
How Bill Gates Impeded Global Access to Covid Vaccines – The New Republic, article
Through Gates hallowed foundation, the world’s de facto public health czar has been a stalwart defender of monopoly medicine. In April, Bill Gates launched a bold bid to manage the world’s scientific response to the pandemic. Gates’s Covid-19 ACT-Accelerator expressed a status quo vision for organizing the research, development, manufacture, and distribution of treatments and vaccines. Like other Gates-funded institutions in the public health arena, the Accelerator was a public-private partnership based on charity and industry enticements. Crucially, and in contrast to the C-TAP, the Accelerator enshrined Gates’s long-standing commitment to respecting exclusive intellectual property claims. Its implicit arguments—that intellectual property rights won’t present problems for meeting global demand or ensuring equitable access, and that they must be protected, even during a pandemic—carried the enormous weight of Gates’s reputation as a wise, beneficent, and prophetic leader. Read on here
COVAX: A global multistakeholder group that poses political and health risks to developing countries and multilateralism – The Transnational Institute (TNI), longread
The global vaccine distribution problem from a human rights perspective can be described as how to get the COVID vaccine to communities and peoples in developing countries quickly, safely, at low or no cost without political-, class- or gender-discrimination. The global vaccine distribution problem from a World Economic Forum (WEF) or a Gates Foundation perspective might be described as how to get the COVID vaccine to communities and peoples in the developing world without disrupting the global pharmaceutical market, with a mechanism that circumvents long standing multilateral humanitarian relief systems while steering the vaccines to preferred allies in the developing world. For the WEF and Gates supporters, the scoping of the problem leads to COVAX. For human rights supporters the scoping of the problem leads more toward a solution that combines a WTO waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID-related products and processes, a General Assembly declaration that health is a global public good, a multilateral global humanitarian relief fund underwritten by developed country governments, and an international distribution system directed by the World Health Assembly. Read on here
April 7, 2021
It’s time to consider a patent reprieve for COVID vaccines – Nature, Editorial
The world needs around 11 billion doses of coronavirus vaccine to immunize 70% of the world’s population, assuming two doses per person. As of last month, orders had been confirmed for 8.6 billion doses, a remarkable achievement. But some 6 billion of these will go to high- and upper-middle-income countries… Read on here
Patently absurd – Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), Article
How did EU governments decide to oppose a global measure that could boost production of Covid-19 vaccines and medicines for the global south? You won’t get the slightest hint from official EU sources. But leaked documents reveal that the Commission and member states see the real problem as a mere PR issue of how to deflect criticism. Given the pandemic, their position seems indefensible… Read on here
The economic benefits of equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines – RAND, Research Brief
Researchers used a global macroeconomic model to examine the economic effects of vaccine nationalism. This brief highlights the cost to 30 high-income countries if low and middle-income countries miss out on initial access to COVID-19 vaccines… Read on here