UK organisations call on the government to ensure global response to COVID-19

Today STOPAIDS joined other access to medicines organisations in writing to the government to demand its support for a global patent pool and affordable access for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

As the World Health Assembly takes place online, the UK government and others have reportedly been trying to weaken the sole resolution proposing a voluntary technology pool for the vaccine. The resolution aims to prevent rich countries monopolising treatments and vaccines and calls for access to be shared equally and fairly.

The letter was sent by the Chief Executives of Just Treatment, STOPAIDS, Oxfam, Global Justice Now and Nurses United.

Diarmaid McDonald, Lead Organiser at Just Treatment said:

“While we welcome the efforts that the UK government has made to support the development of a vaccine, it is vital that collaboration happens on a global scale. Monopolies should never be allowed to get in the way of patients receiving the medicines they need. A shared, equitable technology pool is the quickest way to ensure everyone – rich and poor – will receive treatment.”

James Cole, Advocacy Officer at STOPAIDS said:

“The UK Government must use their engagement at the World Health Assembly to go beyond the rhetoric of equitable access and agree to support mechanisms that will deliver the widest possible access to an affordable COVID-19 vaccine. Today several Governments pledged their support for the COVID-19 technology pool but the UK has remained silent. This has to change.”

Heidi Chow, Senior Campaigns Manager at Global Justice Now said:

“We can only emerge from this crisis if we act in solidarity, leaving countries behind is self-defeating as it will only lead to re-infection. This is not the time to be protecting pharmaceutical monopolies that prevent patient access to essential medicines. A COVID-19 vaccine should be a global public good, affordable for all countries and free to the public, it needs to be patent-free.”

The signatories to the letter urgently asks the government to:

  • Publicly and actively support the COVID-19 technology pool initiative
  • Attach transparent conditions to all UK funding to prevent monopolies and facilitate access
  • Commit to getting any UK-supported vaccine to all those who need it through an internationally agreed mechanism that puts need before narrow self interest.

Rich governments have already been seeking to secure preferential access to vaccine candidates under development in their own countries. In the UK, the government has sought to secure priority access to the vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford.

The Wellcome Trust published a poll yesterday of 2,000 people in the UK, which found that 96 per cent of respondents supported the idea that national governments should work together to ensure that treatments and vaccines can be manufactured in as many countries as possible and distributed globally to everyone who needs them.