Press release

African Union says urgent need to address patents and technology barriers for access to future COVID-19 vaccines

COVID-19 Press release Africa

In a communique issued following the ‘Africa’s Leadership Role in COVID-19 Vaccine Development and Access’ conference of the African Union (AU), African health ministers took a crucial step to state their concern that patents and other technology barriers could negatively impact the ability to ensure access of future potential COVID-19 vaccines in developing countries.


Ahead of Gavi Board meeting, MSF calls on Gavi to revise its global mechanism and demand pharma sell all COVID-19 vaccines at cost

COVID-19 Press release

The Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance will meet this week on 24-25 June. On the top of the agenda is a discussion on the COVAX Facility, a new mechanism Gavi has developed to pay pharmaceutical corporations up front for potential future COVID-19 vaccines. The mechanism has been designed largely behind closed doors, with extremely limited input from civil society or treatment providers like MSF.


MSF responds to news that Gavi will release funds from pneumonia vaccine ‘Advance Market Commitment’ to first new product from a developing country manufacturer

Vaccines Press release Global

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, has just announced that it will award part (US$75 million) of the remaining $262 million of the Advance Market Commitment (AMC)—a $1.5 billion fund that was launched in 2009 to pay for the introduction of the pneumonia vaccine in developing countries—to the Serum Institute of India, which in December 2019 received quality approval for the pneumonia vaccine. Until now, the only two producers of the pneumonia vaccine have been Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), who already had pneumonia vaccines at the brink of market entry when the AMC was launched, and have received the bulk of the $1.5 billion subsidy pot, on top of the base price for the vaccine that they charge Gavi.


MSF: Any future COVID-19 vaccines must be sold at cost and accessible to all

COVID-19 Press release

MSF urged leaders to demand pharmaceutical corporations commit to selling any potential future COVID-19 vaccines at cost, as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, prepares to launch a global mechanism to negotiate with corporations on such vaccines, and appeals to governments to set up a fund to purchase them for developing countries. The fund will be launched on the sidelines of Thursday’s third pledging conference for Gavi, which was set up 20 years ago to pay for vaccines for the world’s poorest countries.


MSF responds to USTR 2020 Special 301 Report

Intellectual property and trade Press release United States of AmericaIndia

Amidst the ongoing global crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released its annual “Special 301 Report” targeting countries for implementing and supporting public health safeguard in their intellectual property laws and policies. In the 2020 report, countries like India, Brazil, China, Chile and Canada, have faced unwarranted pressure from the United States Government for measures adopted by them to ensure access to medicines. 


International organisations call on UK government to prevent Big Pharma profiteering from COVID-19

International organisations ask the UK to guarantee that any COVID-19 medicines or technologies created with public funds are available to all, patent-free.

The UK is putting millions of pounds of public money into global efforts to finding a vaccine for COVID-19. Conditions must be added to these funds to ensure that there are no patents or profiteering on any future COVID-19 vaccine.

Vickie Hawkins
Executive Director
MSF UK London

A wide group of international aid and development organisations and academics today urged the UK government ensure that any COVID-19 vaccines developed with UK taxpayers’ money are produced ‘patent-free’ to prevent Big Pharma corporations profiteering from them. 

The open letter is signed by more than 20 organisations including Global Justice Now, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Access Campaign, MSF UK, Oxfam GB and Save the Children UK [1]. In it, the group commends the government’s £250 million-plus research funding for a COVID-19 vaccine, but warns that without safeguards Big Pharma could monopolise access to any resulting drugs, setting a price unaffordably high, and preventing billions of people from receiving it.

The letter calls on the UK government to guarantee equitable access to any new drug by imposing strict public interest conditions on all UK funding, as well as supporting a proposal from the President of Costa Rica for a ‘global patent pool’ [2]. This would allow all technologies designed for the detection, prevention, control and treatment of COVID-19 to be openly available, making it impossible for any one company or country to monopolise them. 

The signing organisations and academics also call on the UK government to use its powers to override patents on any technologies that are potentially useful for tackling COVID-19, a step already being considered by governments including Germany, Chile and Ecuador.

Although essential medicines, like a potential vaccine for COVID-19, are regularly developed with huge amounts of public funding, corporations manufacture the final medicines and claim intellectual property protection over them, allowing them to charge whatever price they want. This prevents huge numbers of people from accessing vital medicines, and adds substantially to the costs of public healthcare systems that must purchase them, including the NHS. It also prevents collaboration in the research of medicines, as businesses are not transparent in their development of drugs. 

Nick Dearden, Director of Global Justice Now: 

COVID-19 is a global problem. Everyone in the world needs to be able to benefit from a vaccine when it’s developed, otherwise we will not contain this disease and it will recur.

Nick Dearden
Global Justice Now

“COVID-19 is a global problem. Everyone in the world needs to be able to benefit from a vaccine when it’s developed, otherwise we will not contain this disease and it will recur. Sadly, the current pharmaceutical system is not fit for purpose, and unless governments take action there’s every chance that the drugs we develop will not be affordable to people across the world. Today, we’re telling the UK government to put strict conditions on its research funding, ensuring that when a COVID-19 vaccine is produced, it is available to all. We cannot allow the profits from this vaccine to line the pockets of Big Pharma’s shareholders while billions of people are unable to benefit from it.” 

Vickie Hawkins, Executive Director of MSF UK: 

“The UK is putting millions of pounds of public money into global efforts to finding a vaccine for COVID-19. This money cannot be handed to pharmaceutical companies with no strings attached. Conditions must be added to these funds to ensure that there are no patents or profiteering on any future COVID-19 vaccine. 

“We know from our past experiences all over the world what it means not to have right medical tools to save people's lives. Any successful vaccine resulting from public funding must not be limited to commercial interests and has to be made available to all during this pandemic. We have to stop putting the economic interests of pharmaceutical companies above people’s health. This needs to start now."

1. The open letter is available here.

Full signatories are: 

  • Global Justice Now 
  • Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Access Campaign and MSF UK 
  • Oxfam  
  • Save the Children UK 
  • CAFOD 
  • Health Poverty Action 
  • Universities Allied for Essential Medicines  
  • TranspariMED 
  • We Own It 
  • Just Treatment 
  • Transparency International Health Initiative 
  • Primary Care International 
  • Frontline AIDS 
  • Equality Trust 
  • Youth Stop AIDS 
  • Salamander Trust 
  • People’s Health Movement UK 
  • Medact Students for Global Health  
  • ACT UP London 
  • PrEPster
  • Professor Francesco Checchi, Professor of Epidemiology & International Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine 
  • Dr. Andrew Hill, Senior Visiting Research Fellow, University of Liverpool 
  • Dr. Mohga Kamal-Yanni MPhil. MBE, Global Health and Access to Medicines Consultant

2. Regarding the Costa Rica proposal, see ‘WHO is asked to create a voluntary intellectual property pool to develop Covid-19 products’:

coronavirus United Kingdom COVID-19 Press release research and development (R&D)
La ampliación de camas mediante un pabellón cercano al Hospital de Alcalá de Henares está lista para su traspaso al hospital. Photograph by Olmo Calvo

Evacuation of squalid Greek camps more urgent than ever over COVID-19 fears

Evacuation of squalid Greek camps more urgent than ever over COVID-19 fears

The overcrowded and horrific living conditions in the camps - or hotspots - on the Greek islands provide the perfect storm for a COVID-19 outbreak, warned MSF. Given the lack of adequate sanitation services and the severely limited medical care, the risk of the virus spreading amongst the inhabitants of the camps in Greece is extremely high once they have been exposed. And as the first case has been confirmed on Lesbos, a Greek citizen, the evacuation of the camps has become more urgent than ever.

A general view of the olive grove next to the official camp of Moria. At the moment, 13,000 people stranded in a camp designed to host just 3,000. People in the olive grove have to share their tents with other people with whom, they don’t have any previous relationship. The level of hygiene is very low and people have to share a toilet with another 90 people and a shower with 200. When it rains the tents are getting wet and the area turns into a muddy swamp.
12 March 2020
Press release COVID-19 Greece coronavirus
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