UK parliamentarians call for COVID-19 vaccine and other health technologies to be open to all

UK parliamentarians call for COVID-19 vaccine and other health technologies to be open to all

The Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Vaccinations for All, Dr Philippa Whitford, has called on the UK government to ensure equitable access to any COVID-19 related technologies in a cross-party letter to the Prime Minister’s office.

The letter, signed by 130 parliamentarians, has support from all of the main political parties. Supporters include Ed Davey, acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Stephen Doughty, Shadow FCO and DFID Minister, Lord Black of Brentwood, a Conservative Peer and Deputy Chairman of the Telegraph Media Group, and Lord Crisp, Chair of the APPG on Global Health and former Chief Executive of the NHS.

The letter calls on the UK government to ensure any publicly funded vaccine is available on an open-access basis so all countries can afford to purchase, and indeed, produce the vaccine at a reasonable cost. The UK government has already committed £250 million towards researching a vaccine but unless public health conditions are attached to public research, big corporations can shut out anyone who can’t afford their prices.

The parliamentarians are also calling for the UK government to publicly welcome and commit to supporting a proposal for a Covid-19 global mechanism for all countries to get access to affordable testing, treatment and vaccines. Sharing knowledge openly would speed up research while removing monopolies on treatments and vaccines would save lives quickly.

Dr Philippa Whitford MP said:

“The APPG on Vaccinations for All has brought together MPs and Peers from all political parties in calling for this commitment, which is supported by many health and developmental advocacy charities. Just as coronavirus does not see borders, it is absolutely crucial that the fight against the virus is a worldwide effort. 

“The UK government should follow the lead of Costa Rica in supporting a global sharing or open access mechanism so that any patent rights are held by the World Health Organisation. While this a humanitarian approach, it also makes sense from a public health perspective. We have seen the speed with which COVID-19 has spread across the world, so failure to control or eliminate it in developing countries would just see the virus returning to cause further epidemics in the future.

“A vaccine will only be globally effective if it’s affordable, accessible and available for everyone who needs it – now is the time to act to make that possible.”

Welcoming this initiative, Tabitha Ha, STOPAIDS Advocacy Manager said:

“The Missing Medicines Coalition – including STOPAIDS, MSF Access Campaign and Global Justice Now – strongly welcomes these proposals. To effectively tackle COVID-19 we need global collaboration and firm action to prioritize public health over corporate profiteering. We urge the UK government to lead the world by supporting these proposals, which will help speed up research and ensure that everyone will be able to access the diagnostics, vaccines and medicines that come through the pipeline.”

Other parliamentarians supporting these proposals include:

Baroness Sheehan, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for International Development in the House of Lord who said:

“Liberal Democrats urge the UK government to lead the call for the world to work collaboratively under the auspices of the WHO. A global health crisis needs a global response – that much is clear. Instead of countries competing for supplies and working in silos for a solution, wouldn’t it be better if we were to pool the global effort to defeat Covid-19? There is no time to waste, we must take urgent action.”

Wendy Chamberlain, Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for North East Fife and Spokesperson for International Development in House of Commons who said:

“In the UK we are three weeks into lockdown and seeing the devastating impact of this pandemic. The effects of coronavirus could be even more damaging in developing countries unless we co-operate on an international basis and get behind the WHO. They exist to do just this job – if it didn’t already exist we would have to invent it.

The WHO has its faults and challenges, but we should be working with them. They have the knowledge and expertise to co-ordinate the global response to this disease. We need to move quickly and I urge the Government to do so.”