Suspension of Intellectual Property Rights on COVID-19 Vaccines Is a Humanitarian Necessity

Capetown, South Africa, March 11, 2021

The governments of South Africa, India and others have asked the leading imperialist countries to suspend temporarily Intellectual Property (IP) rights on COVID-19 vaccines as a humanitarian necessity. They say their countries have the productive capacity to significantly increase supply. Their scientists and producers have the knowhow and capacity to produce the mRNA vaccine but to do so they need an IP waiver of the patent rights held by private cartels headquartered in the U.S. and Europe.

As it stands, the Big Pharma cartels oppose any relaxation of their IP patent rights. They are already reaping billions in profits and stand to expropriate much more as their own production continues and sales expand around the world. For those sales to reach the developing world, rather than have immediate production outside their control the Big Pharma cartels want global governments to provide funds through vaccine pharmacare for the purchase of the vaccines they produce. This would allow them to reap profits beyond the wildest dreams they had before the pandemic.

Governments' purchase of vaccines from the private cartels for free distribution has led to what many call "obscene profits" and charges from others that the leading imperialist states are guilty of mass murder for blocking expansion of production and delivery of vaccines worldwide.

The leading imperialist countries have already ordered more vaccines than they need, which has effectively cornered the current supply, denying vaccines for the rest of the world. The Trudeau government in practice supports the obstruction of production so that the Big Pharma cartels can reap even more billions from the sale of their own vaccines through an expanded global vaccine pharmacare program.

Regarding the current situation of COVID-19 variants ravaging the poorer countries, IP rights expert Achal Prabhala, in The Dig podcast, said that waiting for the private cartels to produce and sell the vaccines under the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT) and COVAX Facility would delay any substantial vaccine distribution in poorer countries until 2023. Such a delay will result in millions of deaths and other horrific losses and damage, in part because other measures to curb the spread of the infection and treat those suffering from the virus are not possible because of the dreadful existing social conditions.

Prabhala reports that the U.S. government and others in Europe gave the private cartels including Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca "billions of dollars -- billions -- in no-strings-attached grants to do the [vaccine] research, meaning no risk to the companies if they failed. Then they paid the companies billions of dollars -- billions -- in pre-orders so the companies were guaranteed buyers even before coming into the market. Now, they enjoy global monopoly -- largely funded by taxpayer labour."

In effect, IP rights are rights to make obscene private wealth using pay-the-rich schemes, government regulations and laws, instituted throughout the imperialist system of states to serve the global oligarchy. In opposition, the people through their own efforts and organizing must bring the entire health care sector under their control and ensure it serves the people and society and not the narrow private interests of the oligarchs.

(With files from "Global Vaccine Apartheid" with Achal Prabhala on The Dig, Toronto Star, CBC, and "Big Pharma Cartel Reaps Maximum Profit from COVID-19 Pharmacare -- There Is an Alternative!" in TML Monthly, May 2021. Photos: TML, YES magazine, F. Hassan, Global Justice, Action Network)

This article was published in

Volume 51 Number 6 - June 6, 2021

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