G7 governments still refusing to waive intellectual property on Covid-19 vaccines, despite widespread public support
People’s Vaccine Alliance calls for G7 leaders to support a vaccine patent waiver at today’s foreign and development ministers meeting in London.
A supermajority of people in G7 countries believe that governments should ensure pharmaceutical companies share the formulas and technology to their vaccines, according to new polling from the People’s Vaccine Alliance.
The public believes that pharmaceutical companies should be fairly compensated for developing vaccines, but should be prevented from holding a monopoly on the jabs.
It comes as G7 foreign and development ministers meet in London, the group’s first in-person meeting in two years, and the general council of the World Trade Organization (WTO) meets today online, while India’s death toll climbs.
Across G7 nations, an average of 70 per cent of people want the government to ensure vaccine know-how is shared, according to analysis by the People’s Vaccine Alliance. Support for government intervention is highest in Italy, where 82 per cent of respondents were in favour, followed by Canada, where 76 per cent agree.
74 per cent in the United Kingdom want the government to prevent Big Pharma monopolies, despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson attributing the country’s successful vaccine rollout to “greed and capitalism”.
UK support for intervention cuts across political boundaries, backed by 73 per cent of Conservative voters, 83 per cent of Labour and 79 per cent of Liberal Democrats, as well as 83 per cent of Remain and 72 per cent of Leave voters in the EU referendum.
In the United States, where President Joe Biden has voiced his “hope and expectation” for sharing vaccine know-how, 69 per cent of the public support the measure, including 89 per cent of Biden and 65 per cent of Trump voters in 2020. In Japan, 58 per cent of the public want similar action.
European Union member-nations were also strongly in favour, with support from 70 per cent in Germany and 63 per cent in France.
Heidi Chow, Senior Campaigns and Policy Manager at Global Justice Now, said:
“The public doesn’t want big pharma to hold monopolies on vaccines that were developed largely with public money. These vaccines are a global public good that should be available to everyone, everywhere. That much is obvious to the public across G7 nations, but political leaders are burying their heads in the sand while people die around them.”
Despite widespread support for sharing vaccine know-how, G7 governments have continued to support pharmaceutical monopolies on Covid-19 jabs.
More than 100 countries, led by India and South Africa, have supported a temporary waiver of Intellectual Property rights on COVID-19 vaccines at the WTO, but the proposal has been blocked by countries including the US, UK, Japan, Canada, and the EU. The Biden administration has confirmed it is reconsidering American opposition to the waiver.
Pharmaceutical companies have so far refused to share their vaccine know-how with the world. No company with a successful vaccine has joined the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), which was established to facilitate sharing blueprints for vaccines and treatments.
Saoirse Fitzpatrick, STOPAIDS Advocacy Manager said:
“The horrific situation in India should shake G7 leaders to their core. Now is not the time for an ideological defence of intellectual property rules. Bilateral deals with pharmaceutical companies have not worked. Governments need to step in and force pharmaceutical companies to share their intellectual property and vaccine know-how with the world.”
As G7 chair, the UK has proposed a Pandemic Preparedness Plan, to be discussed by ministers this week, which ignores the issue of monopolies and intellectual property. Pharmaceutical corporations such as Pfizer are on the team preparing the proposal, but developing country governments and vaccine producers have not been asked to join.
Steve Cockburn, Head of Economic and Social Justice at Amnesty International, said:
“G7 governments have clear human rights obligations to put the lives of millions of people across the world ahead of the interests of the pharmaceutical companies that they have funded. It would be a gross failure of leadership to continue blocking the sharing of life-saving technologies, and would only serve to prolong the immense pain and suffering caused by this pandemic.”
Last month, 175 former world leaders and Nobel laureates, including Gordon Brown, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Francoise Hollande wrote to President Biden to support the temporary waiving of intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines.
150 faith leaders, including Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, Thabo Makgoba, the Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, and Cardinal Peter Turkson of the Roman Catholic Church have called for G7 leaders to treat COVID-19 as a “global common good”.
Anna Marriott, Health Policy Manager at Oxfam, said:
“People are dying by the thousands in low and middle income countries while rich nations have jumped the vaccine queue. G7 leaders need to face up to reality. We don’t have enough vaccines for everyone and the biggest barrier to increasing supply is that a few profit hungry pharmaceutical corporations keep the rights to produce them under the lock and key. It’s time to waive the intellectual property rules, ramp up production and put people’s lives before profits. It’s time for a People’s Vaccine.”
Two-thirds of world-leading epidemiologists surveyed warned that the continued spread of the virus could allow vaccine-resistant strains of COVID-19 to render our current vaccines ineffective within a year. Independent SAGE, who provide independent public health advice in the United Kingdom, have called for a patent waiver to address supply issues.
Moderna, Pfizer/BioNtech, Johnson & Johnson, Novovax and Oxford/AstraZeneca received billions in public funding and guaranteed pre-orders, including $12 billion from the US government alone. An estimated 97 per cent of funding for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine came from public sources.
The companies have paid out a combined $26 billion in dividends and stock buybacks to their shareholders this year, enough to vaccinate at least 1.3 billion people, equivalent to the population of Africa.
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- The People’s Vaccine Alliance has analyzed polling from across G7 countries conducted by YouGov, Leger360, and Nippon Research Center.
- When asked if they support the statement ‘Governments should compensate fairly for any COVID-19 vaccine developed by a pharmaceutical company but ensure they don’t have a monopoly by sharing these formulas and technology with other approved companies’, views reflected by public in each country were:
- YouGov UK polling
- Sample Size: 1788 UK Adults
- Fieldwork: 23rd – 24th February 2021
- 74% supported the statement. 73% of Conservative voters, 82% of Labour, 79% of Liberal Democrat. 83% of Remain voters and 72% of Leave voters.
- YouGov France polling
- Sample Size: 1010 adults in France
- Fieldwork: 24th – 25th February 2021
- 63% support the statement
- YouGov Germany polling
- Sample Size: 2039 adults in Germany
- Fieldwork: 24th – 26th February 2021
- 70% support the statement
- YouGov US polling
- Sample Size: 1351 adults in the US
- Fieldwork: 23rd – 24th February 2021
- 69% support the statement. 82% of Biden voters and 65% of Trump voters in 2020.
- YouGov Italy polling:
- Sample size: 1019 adults in Italy
- Fieldwork 4th – 5th March 2021
- 82% support the statement
- Leger360 Canada polling:
- Sample size: 1526 Canadian adults
- Fieldwork 5th – 7th March 2021
- 76% support the statement
- Nippon Research Center Japan polling:
- Sample size: 1,278
- Fieldwork:17 March 2021
- 58% supported the statement
- YouGov UK polling
The People’s Vaccine Alliance is a movement of health, humanitarian and human rights organizations, past and present world leaders, health experts, faith leaders and economists advocating that COVID-19 vaccines are manufactured rapidly and at scale, as global common goods, free of intellectual property protections and made available to all people, in all countries, free of charge.