In the first week of January, WHO reported over seven million newly reported cases in Europe, more than doubling over a two-week period. In view of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, it is essential that the technology and intellectual property related to COVID-19 medical tools and vaccines be shared, making it easier for low- and middle-income countries to access or manufacture these tools, thereby reducing mortality and morbidity.
So far, no company with an approved mRNA vaccine has stepped forward to contribute their technology and know-how. MSF urgently needs BioNTech, Pfizer and Moderna – developers of the two WHO-listed mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 – to share mRNA technologies and support independent vaccine production and supply on the African continent. The EU is acting against the global medical needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but also against the long-term interests of its own citizens and Member States. EU-based pharmaceutical companies are the only winners from its current policies. A new MSF analysis, published in December 2021, identified more than 100 manufacturers across Asia, Africa and Latin America with the technical requirements and quality standards to manufacture mRNA vaccines.
If the EU is serious about stopping the COVID-19 pandemic, it should stop blocking the WTO TRIPS waiver that if adopted can promote local production of COVID medical tools, it should ensure that COVID-19 mRNA vaccine technologies are shared, and it should speed up vaccine transfers to COVAX and to low- and middle-income countries as soon as possible. With the COVID-19 pandemic showing no signs of abating, including in regions with free access to COVID-19 medical tools and high vaccination rates, such as Europe, it is essential to prioritise access to COVID-19 medical tools, including tests, treatments and vaccines for everyone, everywhere.
"With millions of lives at stake, the world cannot afford to waste any more time. We call on those countries that oppose this waiver to take urgent steps to adopt a full waiver”, says Candice Sehoma, advocacy officer for MSF's Access to Essential Medicines Campaign in South Africa.
“This is to facilitate a more diverse and wider production and supply of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutic and diagnostic products and other health technologies. The waiver is needed now more than ever”.
MSF further wishes for equitable access from across the world
Ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to benefit from access to lifesaving medicines, vaccines and other medical technologies across the world is the main objective of the MSF international project Access Campaign. As MSF turns the corner on another challenging year for the world, the project shares some of its hopes and dreams for better times ahead from the world over:
- From South Africa: Grow the number of COVID-19 vaccine producers. MSF wishes for pharma to share COVID-19 vaccine recipes with WHO’s tech transfer hub to increase the number of vaccine manufacturers in African countries;
- From India: Key medicines for people living with complications of AIDS. MSF wishes for Gilead to reliably deliver on its promise of more affordable prices for a key drug for people with AIDS who have deadly cryptococcal meningitis;
- From Brazil: Laws to break monopolies so medicines are affordable. MSF wishes for parliament to pass more laws to free medicines from monopolies and open up affordable generic production;
- From East Africa: Options for quality treatment for people with diabetes. MSF wishes for more affordable insulin that is approved by WHO as part of the bundle of medical tools people with diabetes need;
- From South East Asia: Support for local manufacturers to make tests. MSF wishes for government support for local manufacturers to expand production and supply of diagnostics tests for COVID-19 and for other diseases.
- For the world over: People over profits... now and forever. MSF campaign ‘wishes’ are many but are all driven by the conviction that people must come before profits.