Covid: UK fighting patent-free Covid vaccine proposals – BBC Newsnight

in recent days the eu and uk have been taking the wrong kind of jabs at each other over frustrations around vaccine supply but there is of course a bigger picture only when the global population is being protected from covid will many of us feel life returning to normal but there's a catch should governments effectively go over the heads of the limited number of vaccine manufacturers in order to increase supply the global capacity of uh for producing vaccines is around 3.5 billion while 10 billion is needed additionally these vaccines that are produced are produced in wealthy countries and are in general kept by those wealthy countries and developing nations are saying we need to have a share of the pie not only the share of the vaccines but also the share of the right to produce these vaccines to make a vaccine you not only need to have the right to produce the actual substance they're composed of which is protected by patents you also need to have the knowledge about how to make them because the technology can be complex the world health organization does not have the authority to sidestep patents but it's trying to bring countries together to find a way to bolster vaccine supplies newsnite has been leaked a draft of who discussions about how to improve global vaccine supply and enable poorer countries to make them the document reveals just how polarized the debate is developing countries most of which have not been given a single vaccine want the ability to make them but some richer countries with access to the vaccines are blocking efforts to do this the discussions aren't just about covid but the pandemic has made them all the more relevant what growing calls are being made for is to increase the number of companies and laboratories around the world with the ability to produce vaccines including in developing world countries and so this text is about and trying to facilitate that so the uk's is actually largely playing i would argue a negative role so where we could have language in there that would make it easier for countries to produce more vaccines and more medicines within their country where it would include um initiatives that would finance and facilitate that to happen the uk is on the opposite side of the argument trying to remove those kinds of progressive proposals from the text but while campaigners say we should enable more suppliers in different countries to make covered vaccines drug company representatives have deep concerns earlier this month they wrote to president biden to share their worries eliminating those protections would undermine the global response to the pandemic including ongoing effort to tackle new variants create confusion that could potentially undermine public confidence in vaccine safety and create a barrier to information sharing most importantly eliminating protections would not speed up production but campaigners say it goes both ways they argue that around 90 billion pounds of public money has gone into developing covert treatments and vaccines and the public should have a stake and once the pandemic ends there's a lot of money to be made this was fighter executives last week what i believe is as we move from a pandemic state from a pandemic situation to an endemic situation normal market forces normal market conditions will start to kick in and factors like efficacy booster ability clinical utility will you know basically become very important and we view that as quite frankly a significant opportunity it's obvious that their that their longer term plan is to increase the price of these vaccines once the most urgent phase of the pandemic is over so that is another reason why developing countries are saying we need to to gain the ability to produce these vaccines ourselves now there's another aspect of course that is if you if you increase the knowledge of vaccine production uh in other parts or in all parts of the world you also help to be much better prepared for the next pandemic if and when governments should intervene to ensure affordable supplies of medicines it's a long-standing issue but it may be a global pandemic that focuses minds on whether big pharma has the world exactly where it wants it debra cohen reporting there well a government spokesman said a global pandemic requires a global solution and the uk is leading from the front driving forward efforts to ensure equitable access around the world to covid vaccines and treatments as one of the largest donors to kovacs our funding is going to help to distribute one billion doses of coronavirus vaccines to developing countries this year alone now joining me now is thomas cuaney director general of the international federation of pharmaceutical manufacturers and associations margot kamal yani of the people's vaccine alliance and senior lecturer at university college cork and more so let's start with you thomas uh queney on this vital issue why not let developing countries help with the effort of just making as much vaccine as possible look we are fully aligned with no one is safe until everyone is safe but you have to bear in mind where we are nobody would have believed one year ago that within a year of the pandemic started we wouldn't have one but four vaccines approved by who within 326 days record time we are the first highly safe and highly effective vaccine approved and used and it's also not true as was implied that people in developing countries are left stranded and people even young and healthy in rich countries get the vaccine i'm in switzerland i was told just today that we will have to wait for spring for another month in lockdown because there is fear about the third wave of code 19 and we have seen just three weeks ago the first significant amounts of kovacs deliveries reaching people in accra kigali nairobi at the same time as the first vaccines reach tokyo we have never seen that in the past therefore we do have this solidarity effort well we hear a lot of words but what we have shown is in the discussions at the world health organization literally developing countries that have the capacity want the patents intellectual property to be waived and they want to be able to make it themselves because they can't get hold of it why are you against that or do you back do not back what the governments are doing essentially on your behalf no look look at the reality pre-covered 19 vaccine capacity in the world as was said was 3.5 billion for all vaccines measles a happy influence salvadevo this year we talk about traveling that vaccine capacity to 10 billion and when you look at where will these 10 billion come from about half of them will come from developing countries most of them from indian vaccines manufacture based on technology transfer based on voluntary license as you have for example between astrazeneca and oxford and salem institute of india just last friday the u.s the quad announced that they will fund a joint venture for the johnson johnson vaccine to be manufactured by biologically large indian vaccine manufacturer and you have similar collaborations around the world half of these vaccines will come from developing well let me put some of that to moga um collaboration is happening astrazeneca's intellectual property has been transferred to india hundreds of millions of vaccines are being made these are made as bilateral deals where the company the pharmaceutical company assassinicon this in this occasion are in total control of the um of the contract we don't know what's in the contract at the beginning when they announced it in a talk was about uh three that it would be for developing countries that the those will be uh three dollars what's happening is the company sold the the vaccine for uh 5.25 dollars for uh per dose for brazil in brazil and south africa seven dollars in in uganda so and and also this this production in syria institute which is meant to be for developing countries now uh other countries you know rich countries including the uk i'm amazed that we're saying we will face shortages here because there's delay in five million doses from syria okay so there are some specific issues that you point to there but in general it is quite something that this new much-needed vaccine has been transferred the blueprints just handed over to india i mean are you saying that other other countries other companies need to do the same thing is it is that your argument what's going on in this argument what my argument is not bilateral exclusive licenses that the companies has total control and down that is like plaster on on a a huge wound on an abscess really so what you need is fundamental solution and this is not transfer of technology we're talking about sharing technology so these companies can produce in the sustainably this year and next year for covet and also for other emerging diseases and who has a mechanism to facilitate this transfer of technology but companies don't want to join it let me put that back to thomas let me open that to thomas so even if some of the intellectual property of the science of these vaccines is shared as we've seen on some occasions the technology for making it isn't being shared don't you want all hands at the pump here as much of this being made as possible not quite you know the debate which you talked about the debate about the patent label taking away the patents wouldn't give you a single dose more right now really there's not a single factory are you sure about that why are they arguing at wh about this then i'm sorry what you need to share is in order to get the vaccine done you need to know how the skill set the raw materials the ingredients you know you could get a recipe for cake from mary baker and it wouldn't mean that you would know how to do that cake we two weeks ago we co-organized a big conference of major suppliers from developing and industrialized countries on the current bottlenecks about this daunting challenge of traveling global vaccine capacity the debate was about shortage of glass files debate was about shortage of syringes you can help them you can help them they'll make more isn't that the answer you can't just push the button and you have billions of doses more of billions of years not helping by blocking this uh patent uh what what are you scared of here what's the problem you've been funded tens of billions from governments in order to get these vaccines going this is a public good it's much needed both for health and for the economy i fully agree we are not safe until everyone is safe and that's why we joined forces by the way with the developing country in manufactures early on with kovacs we have seen an unprecedented act of solidarity kovacs aims to relied more than two billion doses to people in developing countries fully funded by countries such as the uk let me bring ann let me bring anne in now i mean what is the danger if these vaccinations uh if if there's a shortfall in developing countries what is the danger well i guess if there's a shortfall in uh vaccinations of millions of people in low-middle-income countries then we are at risk of this virus continuing to spread and as as thomas correctly said uh no one is safe until we're we're all safe together as a global community however i don't think that um discussing waiving ip rights intellectual property rights uh will contribute to making vaccines faster um it's it's not about who owns the rights it's about the technology transfer that is happening and the agreements that are being made and the uh organizations that have put funding into developing these vaccines such as sepi such as government organizations um are insisting on the fact on companies making transferring this technology and ensuring that it is that the vaccines are being available to low middle-income countries um the ip rights i mean as a person who's worked in the vaccine field uh all my professional career you know over time we see fewer and fewer organizations commercial companies being interested in being in the boxing field because there's so little return on it and are we not in the middle of a pandemic you know we had the same issue with hiv and the south africans and the brazilians they manufactured antiretrovirals to great success why is this any different it is no different and a lot of companies throughout the world are beginning to scale up and and produce uh vaccines for for their own populations and also for other populations so i mean i but that is separate to waiving ip rights i.p rights is key for for companies and for academics and for innovators to be able to uh provide something with that has a tangible uh it is a tangible asset well let me let me put that to margaret are you saying that there are developing countries ready to go to add additional vaccine capacity who are being stopped by this ip waiver issue they stopped by two things one the lack of sharing of technology and the second one by the the intellectual property and don't tell me intellectual property it's a mess to say intellectual poverty is not important why is it moderna has 12 patents on on their mrna vaccine and intellectual protect is not just pattern they're straight secrets you can't have you can't produce a vaccine when there's when you can't use um the the data and the know-how because of the the intellectual property rights and just in terms of capacity in developing countries let's not forget you know a few months ago there wasn't one single company that produced mrna this is a new technology and we it wasn't produced before yet there are many companies are producing why not in the south there are companies in the south that are able but nobody is giving them a chance so the bottom bottom line here thomas quaina is it is it not we heard it from fisa there is the bottom line that whatever happens in this pandemic crisis period we have a situation after that when this is going to be a massive cash cow for the pharmaceutical industry i don't know yet and what i see now is that basically every company knows that it has to behave socially responsible and what we have seen is unprecedented amount of collaboration within big pharma you've also seen companies whose vaccine projects failed to unite joint before you have seen tech transfer and volunteer licenses with developing country vaccine manufacture therefore following the pandemic you will have a much bigger capacity also in the south and we already have to prepare for the next pandemic that's why as ann said it's so important that we do not send a signal which would be disastrous for future pandemic preparedness thank you thomas and and morgan for that thank you very much

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