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THE European Trades Union Confederation (ETUC) called today for democratic control over the Covid-19 vaccination drive to avoid “vaccine nationalism” and prevent big pharma companies gaining a monopoly.
A recent dispute between the European Commission and AstraZeneca “showed just how little power democratic institutions have over the process, compared to CEOs answerable only to shareholders,” an ETUC statement said, adding: “The dangers of delegating responsibility for vaccines entirely to ‘big pharma’ have become clear.”
The row erupted last month after AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot insisted that he was contractually obliged to supply the vaccine to Britain.
This was disputed by Brussels, which reminded the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant that the European Union was investing €336 million (£297m) in AstraZeneca in return for 400m doses of its vaccine, the first 100m of which were expected before April.
The EU and its 27 member states have come under fire for their slow implementation of vaccination programmes, with allegations that the response to the pandemic has been poorly co-ordinated.
“While unions fully support the principle of European co-ordination on vaccines as a means of avoiding vaccine nationalism, the process so far has been blighted by a lack of transparency in procurement and unexplained delays in production, which have cost lives and livelihoods,” the ETUC said.
The confederation has asked the EU Commission to intervene to avoid profit speculation and ensure that the most vulnerable people have priority for a jab.
“Vaccines have been developed thanks to billions of public investments, so vaccines must remain in public hands and the rollout should be under the control of democratic institutions,” it said.
The ETUC called for vaccines to be given free of charge, starting with the most vulnerable and front-line workers.
It also argued for a waiver of copyright provisions in the World Trade Organisation Trips agreement for Covid-19 vaccines and for patents to remain public, so that countries can develop vaccines freely.
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