The COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the world. As of 29 June 2021, there have been 181 million cases of COVID-19, including 3.9 million deaths, reported according to the WHO. There are already several vaccines that have been developed, with 2.6 trillion vaccine doses already administered, yet the majority of the population of poor countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia remains waiting. This contrasts with the access in rich countries which gobbled up the vaccine supply.
According to UNICEF, the majority of high-income countries have secured at least 350% of the doses they need. Meanwhile, the agreements reached by low- and middle-income countries for doses to be delivered up to 2023 cover only half their populations, or less.
By the start of June 21, high-income countries had administered 69 times more vaccine doses per capita than the lowest-income countries, according to the WHO. In most African nations, less than 2% of the population has received even one dose.
Even in rich countries like the United States there is wide vaccine inequity among races and between economic strata. According to data collected from 40 out of 50 states in the US, the percent of White people who have received at least one dose of vaccine was roughly 1.4 times higher than the rate for Black people and 1.2 times higher than the rate for Hispanic people, as of June 21, 2021. It is a known fact that the overwhelming majority of poor people in the US are non-whites.
This put us on the issue of intellectual property rights (IPR) over COVID-19 vaccines. Intellectual property rights such as patents were intended to encourage research, such as the development of new drugs. However, in practice, patents give a monopoly of big pharmaceutical corporations in imperialist countries like the United States, European Union a monopoly over sales of the medicines based on the technology for several years, despite the fact that research into the COVID-19 was largely publicly funded by taxpayers . This break of monopoly over COVID-19 vaccines means a sure reduction of billions of profit from the current global health crisis, but it will overwhelmingly favor people in poor countries.
There is an urgent need to communize or at the least have a patent drug waiver on COVID-19 vaccines for poor countries so that they can produce their own vaccine needs, or receive vaccines at reduced costs. This is more strategic and effective than waiting for donations from rich countries to donate their excess vaccine doses.
Yet this is a big challenge as big pharmas and imperialist countries are opposing such reform. Moderna, Pfizer and the monopoly alliance of big pharma’s, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations, have strongly opposed the proposal to temporarily waive the drug patent over COVID-19 vaccines.
This anti-health and pro-corporate position is being supported by capitalist countries such as Germany and Japan.
The Commission on Science and Technology for People’s Development (ILPS Commission XIII) assert its position that intellectual property rights on medicines should primarily be used to uphold people’s health, lives, and welfare, while at the same time protecting and recognizing the right of scientists and technologists for their contribution in developing medical products. We strongly oppose the greedy control of big pharmaceutical corporations along with their imperialist countries to monopolize COVID-19 vaccines and allow them to control the health of most of the global population.
The world would be better able to cope with the ongoing pandemic if poor countries have free access to patents on knowledge, ample support for their national pharmaceutical industries, and are provided with medical technologies and materials to produce enough COVID-19 vaccines.
It is our collective task to address the monopoly of big pharmaceutical corporations over the global health industry, the health inequities between countries and among people. We can solve these ills if the people can break the monopoly of imperialists on the world economy and politics. This will only be done through the people’s movement for a socialist pathway.
IPR Waiver on COVID-19 vaccines now! People’s health over profit!
Scientists and technologists participate in people’s resistance! Make science and technology serve people’s rights, health and liberation!