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Boris Johnson must ‘stand up to Big Pharma’ over Covid-19 vaccines, campaigners say

CAMPAIGNERS urged PM Boris Johnson to “stand up to Big Pharma” yesterday by pledging at a global vaccine summit to make the coronavirus vaccine affordable for the world’s poorest people.

The demand came as world leaders congregated via video-link in the virtual Global Vaccine Summit chaired by Britain, during which Mr Johnson gave a keynote speech.

Mr Johnson called for “a new era of global health co-operation” and encouraged world leaders to raise £5.9 billion to distribute vaccines for various infectious diseases in some of the poorest countries over the next five years.

The money will go to Gavi, a global vaccine alliance part-funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which was set up 20 years ago to develop and distribute vaccines to the poorest countries for diseases such as malaria, cholera, measles and HIV/Aids. 

At the summit, Gavi launched the new Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access (Covax) facility. It is expected to raise money to boost manufacturing for a future vaccine through advanced purchase commitments, as well as to secure supplies for developing countries.  

Global Justice Now called on Mr Johnson to ensure that any funding raised to purchase Covid-19 vaccines for developing countries has conditions attached to secure an affordable price.  

The campaigners said that funding from the facility should have conditions that ensure pharmaceutical companies offer Covid-19 vaccines patent-free to enable a diversity of suppliers that can supply at cost-price.

Companies must also commit to sharing their knowledge with other countries to increase global manufacturing capability, they added.

Global Justice Now campaigner Heidi Chow said: “If no conditions are attached to this facility, it will simply become a giant hand-out to big pharma.

“The Prime Minister needs to use his role as the summit host to work with Gavi and push for conditions to prevent monopolies, otherwise big pharma will be free to dictate whatever price they want while restricting supply.

“There should be no profiteering during a global pandemic.  
 
“Governments around the world are already pouring billions into vaccine research and development but there are no safeguards that ensure any publicly funded vaccine will be produced patent-free.

“Any vaccine developed must be a global public good and therefore patent-free so that it is affordable for all countries and free to every person.” 

Medecins Sans Frontieres this week urged governments to sell coronavirus vaccines “at cost” and make them “universally accessible to all across the world.”

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