The move comes just a few days after the The United States has announced its support for the proposed waiver, a decision described as “monumental” by the Director General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
In an open letter organized by Global Justice Now, StopAIDS and Just Treatment, the group called on Boris Johnson to “stand on the right side of history”.
The letter urged the UK to follow the US lead, adding: “Action is deeply urgent. New waves of COVID-19 are multiplying across the world as epidemiologists warn new mutations risk leaving current vaccines ineffective.
“Coupled with the sharing of vaccine technology and know-how through the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), this exemption would allow more producers to manufacture more vaccines and help to save countless lives and livelihoods. a history of unequal access to deal with diseases such as HIV / AIDS.
“We urge you to take a leadership role now to ensure an end to this global crisis. Defending intellectual property at all costs will not only lead to even more unnecessary loss of life, but constitutes an act of collective self-harm without precedent.
“Please stand on the right side of the story and make sure vaccines are available to everyone, everywhere – a ‘popular vaccine’ – by supporting the World Trade Organization and Pool’s waiver proposal. access to COVID-19 technology. “
Among the signatories of the letter are:
- Independent SAGE members Christina Pagel and Stephen Reicher
- Former Conservative ministers, Baroness Verma and MP for Dr Daniel Poulter
- Liberal Democrats, including Foreign Affairs and Health Spokesperson Layla Moran
- Green MP Caroline Lucas
- Former Labor Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Labor MP Sarah Champion, Chair of the International Development Committee
- Lord Bernard Ribeiro, peer curator and former president of the Royal College of Surgeons
- Lord Leslie Turnberg, Former President of the Royal College of Physicians
- Plus de 80 organisations caritatives, dont Oxfam, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Christian Aid
- COVID survivors
- Unions, including Unison, ASLEF and TSSA transport unions, and the firefighters union
Companies, such as pharmaceutical companies making COVID-19 vaccines, protect their work through intellectual property laws, such as patents and copyrights.
But the waiver would allow the production of cheaper generic versions of the vaccines, dramatically increasing production and distribution in the world’s poorest countries, many of which have yet to launch immunization programs.
The waiver proposal was originally presented to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in October by India and South Africa.
It was backed by 100 other countries, but was blocked by a number of richer countries.
Britain previously encouraged knowledge sharing between industry and manufacturers, but stopped calling for IP waivers.
The UK government said earlier this month that it was “working with WTO members to resolve this issue” and was in talks with countries, including the United States, to try to boost production and supply of COVID vaccines.
In recent weeks, the issue has become more urgent with the outbreak in India, the second most populous country in the world.
There are also concerns that allowing the virus to spread to poorer countries increases the risk of vaccine-resistant mutations that could render our current vaccines obsolete.
But not everyone thinks that a waiver of intellectual property is the answer.
Some critics have said supply chains are the root of the vaccine shortage, adding that COVID-19 vaccine production is complex and should not be left to a potential free-for-all.
There are also concerns that lifting these protections could discourage future innovation – companies spend a lot of money researching such breakthroughs and they rely on the protections to ensure that their work is not then copied by others. others for easy profit.
But supporters of the IP waiver argue that all of the major vaccine producers – Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Novovax and AstraZeneca – have been funded at least in part by taxpayers and guaranteed pre-orders from governments.
Heidi Chow, head of campaigns and policy at Global Justice Now, which is part of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, said: “Right now there are inactive factories that could produce billions of doses of COVID-vaccines. 19, but intellectual property rules are restrictive. production to supply chains only a few companies.
“It is absolutely shameful that the UK remains complicit in this crisis. The Prime Minister must now read the writing on the wall, step up and support a patent waiver for the good of all mankind. ”