The amendment of the European Parliament which asks to pass, with one vote only temporarily suspend vaccine patents. A position that contrasts with the line adopted by the Commission, the executive body of the Union, which up to now has always defended the usefulness of pharmaceutical companies’ licenses. The vote has a limited practical impact but one high symbolic value and could have some weight in view of negotiations which will take place in the council ofWorld Trade Organization (WTO) next July. “It is appropriate to say David beats Goliath. With courage, the European Parliament took the side of the weakest, the poorest countries that demand more anti-Covid vaccines at affordable prices. Anyone who thought of placing the European Union on the side of drug multinationals was wrong. Those who thought they were trampling on the public interest to increase Big Pharma’s profits have lost “, comments in a note Tiziana Beghin, Head of Delegation of the 5 Star Movement to the European Parliament.
The issue of patent liberalization returned to the center of the debate after the United States they came out in favor of this solution. It must be said that the stance of the White House comes with the national vaccination program already very advanced and after that, for months, they have been export blocked of doses abroad. This is something that Europe has done only on rare occasions. In addition, the US pharmaceutical giants (Pfizer, Johnson&Johnson e Moderna) have now already forfeited billionaire profits with the sale of their vials. Pfizer alone has estimated 26 billion dollars of additional profits for 2021 generated by the Covid vaccine.
In the meantime, however, the vaccination programs in the poorest countries it is accumulating serious delays with risks for local populations and beyond. The existence of areas where the virus continues to circulate increases the possibility that they develop new variants resistant to vaccines products so far. After the initial declarations of many European leaders, including Emmanuel Macron and Mario Draghiin support of the US line, the countries of the old continent have instead followed the position of Berlin, which has always been opposed to liberalization. Line adopted by the EU Commission. The European proposal therefore remains that of compulsory licenses, in essence, a pharmaceutical company sells the patent but upon payment of a fee. On the other hand, 130 countries, led by India and South Africa, now backed by the US, are asking for patents to be made available.
One of the reasons why licenses are defended is that their liberalization would not serve to increase the production of vials. However, a recent and authoritative study published in Public Citizen showed how, having available licenses for drugs and technologies, the times for the conversion of production lines, enabling them to make vaccines with mRna technologies, can be pretty fast. A matter of a few months, as demonstrated by the case of a German plant used by BioNtech. The existence of a global network of “principals” industrialists able to quickly start the production of vaccines, thus enabling a fast global supply, is the real goal that we would like to pursue with the liberalization of patents. Especially in view of possible new, and unfortunately probable according to experts, epidemics.