Geneva, 3 November 2020 – Last week, Brazilian public research institution Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz) published online the terms of its agreement with pharmaceutical corporation AstraZeneca for the production of a potential future COVID-19 vaccine, signed on 9 September 2020. Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) welcomes Fiocruz’s initiative and calls on other vaccine developers and producers to also make public any vaccine licensing agreements. In a statement, Fiocruz considers that the agreement brings a positive opportunity for Brazil to produce and supply the vaccine at a more affordable price.
Pharmaceutical companies such as AstraZeneca are heavily reliant on public money for the research and development (R&D) and production of potential COVID-19 vaccines, yet all corporations have failed to disclose their R&D costs, clinical trial data and licensing deals, including, for example, the original exclusive license between AstraZeneca and Oxford University. Without transparency across the board, the public cannot hold corporations to account, and governments and multilateral institutions are forced to negotiate blind with companies when trying to secure an affordable price.
The document released last week is a positive step, however some concerns about AstraZeneca’s handling of intellectual property rights and its powers to define the “pandemic period” remain, as these terms are not yet fully disclosed. MSF therefore calls on AstraZeneca to make all its agreements public, with full disclosure of all relevant terms.
Kate Elder, Senior Vaccines Policy Advisor, MSF Access Campaign:
“Transparency is a core principle required to achieve the goal of equitable access to any future COVID-19 vaccine that is proven safe and effective, yet the deals being struck by vaccine producers are kept secret despite the unprecedented levels of public taxpayer money funding their R&D and manufacturing. Fiocruz made a fundamental contribution towards elevating transparency standards by openly publishing the terms of its agreement with AstraZeneca. This precedent must be followed by other institutions, whether they be research entities, corporations or other producers. It is only with transparency that the commitments to distribute vaccines fairly, not profit off the pandemic and develop and deliver COVID-19 vaccines as a ‘global public good’ can be verified and upheld – nothing can justify the level of secrecy that surrounds these lifesaving tools today.”