Oxfam welcomes European Parliament’s vote to suspend vaccine patents

Published: 9th June 2021

The European Parliament has supported an amendment calling for Europe to support the temporary suspension of intellectual property rules for Covid-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments. In reaction to this vote, Evelien van Roemburg, head of Oxfam EU office, said: 

“This vote sends a strong signal that Europeans stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of the world in the fight against the pandemic. European governments and the European Commission must stop spouting red-herring arguments and instead follow suit by backing the proposal on the table at the World Trade Organisation. Other qualified producers must be given the know-how and technology to make more vaccines. This will slash costs so everyone can access them.  

We have seen what happens when big pharma only cares about their profits – more deaths and more suffering. They should not be allowed to decide who gets to live or die. Especially now with the explosion of new variants. The EU has helped the big pharma billionaires long enough, now we need to help the billions. It is time to break the vaccine monopolies and put people before profit.”  

 

Notes to editors

  • The European Parliament voted today on a resolution on the TRIPs waiver – this vote, while symbolic, will put forward a position ahead of the WTO meeting on 8-9 June and the G7 meeting.  

  • Currently, the EU’s proposal at the WTO table is to end export bans, ramp up the production of vaccine manufacturers and remove the red tape around vaccine production. Oxfam believes:  

  • Export bans: we support removing export bans wherever possible but getting rid of them does not solve the inequitable distribution of existing vaccines.  

  • Voluntary licensing agreements: These do nothing to shift us away from the current industry-controlled model where just a handful of powerful corporations retain control over global vaccine supplies and continue to prioritise profitable deals with richer countries leaving poorer countries at the back of the queue. Any voluntary licensing should be done through the World Health Organisation’s Covid Technology Access Pool to maximise vaccine production by qualified manufacturers around the world rather than those handpicked by big pharma.  

  • COVAX: This mechanism aims to vaccinate 20 - 27% of the population in eligible countries by the end of this year. It is dangerously off-track having only delivered a third of the planned doses. COVAX remains over-dependent on just one supplier from India which due to the rapid spread of the virus in India will not provide any further doses to COVAX until the end of the year. These failings only increase the urgency to ramp up manufacturing around the world which will increase competition lowering vaccine prices.  

  • Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech’s successful mRNA vaccines are set to become two of the three bestselling pharmaceutical products in the world. The companies are projecting revenues of $33.5 billion in 2021 from their vaccines. Their vaccines are also the most expensive, ranging from $13.50 to $74 per course, with both firms looking to increase prices. In an investor call, Pfizer cited between $150 and $170 a dose as the typical price it receives for vaccines. This is despite a study from the Imperial College in London showing that the cost of production of new mRNA vaccines could be between 60 cents and $2 a dose.  

  • Vaccine production has created 9 new billionaires. Meanwhile, current vaccination rates mean low-income countries will be waiting 57 years for their entire population to be vaccinated.  

 

Contact information

Jade Tenwick | EU Media Officer | jade.tenwick@oxfam.org | mobile +32 473 56 22 60