In a conversation with healthcare activist Ady Barkan, Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for U.S. president, committed to sharing COVID-19 vaccine technologies and ensuring patents do not stand in the way of other countries accessing life-saving vaccines if he is elected. Health Global Access Project (Health GAP) issued the following statements in response to the news.
Brook Baker, Professor of Law at Northeastern University and Health GAP Senior Policy Analyst, said:
“We must learn the lessons from the global AIDS pandemic, where Big Pharma’s price gouging and obstruction of cost-cutting generic competition resulted in countless preventable deaths in the global South, particularly in countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This first, welcome rhetorical step by Vice President Biden should be followed by a concrete plan to dismantle the misguided, dangerous current policy of ‘America first, everyone else to the back of the queue.’
“Biden must also show how he will overcome patent and other drug company monopolies to ensure adequate supplies of affordable vaccines both in the U.S. and around the world. Aggressively expanding manufacturing capacity to meet emergency needs should not be left to the companies – there should be full technology transfer to all capable manufacturers globally so that the world can collectively end this plague sooner rather than later.
“Pouring billions in public sector funding into Big Pharma’s research and development efforts, clinical trials, expansion of manufacturing capacity, and advance purchases of unproven medicines, while still allowing drug companies’ unfettered monopoly control over price and supply, guaranteeing impoverished people are condemned to more suffering and death, is morally wrong and a prescription for exacerbating and extending the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Committing resources for U.S. purchase of vaccines that will hopefully be free at the point of care is certainly wise, but the U.S. also needs to expand its global health funding both to ensure delivery of needed medical products for COVID-19, and also to make up for the huge disruptions of other global health programs including those addressing HIV, TB, and malaria. Political leaders should recognize that people in the U.S. are not only concerned about their own well-being, but the well-being of others. No one is safe from COVID-19 until we are all safe.”
Emily Sanderson, Health GAP National Organizer, U.S., said:
“COVID-19 technologies must be treated by the U.S. and all nations as global public goods. COVID-19 will continue to be a health threat for all of us as long as vaccines, treatments, diagnostics, and other technologies are not shared and widely-available to people around the world. Hoarding, nationalism, pushing people in low-, middle-income, and other upper-middle income countries to the back of the line, blocking healthcare workers’ access to life-saving personal protective equipment, and buying up supplies of current and prospective treatments, is a losing prescription for the American people. All candidates and elected officials should strongly affirm their support for and commitment to global health policies that advance the right to health for people in the U.S. and around the world.”
About Health GAP: Health GAP is an international advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all people living with HIV have access to affordable life sustaining medicines. Our team pairs pragmatic policy work with audacious grassroots action to win equitable access to treatment, care and prevention for people living with and affected by HIV worldwide. We are dedicated to eliminating barriers to universal access to affordable life sustaining medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS as key to a comprehensive strategy to confront and ultimately stop the AIDS pandemic. We believe that the human right to life and to health must prevail over the pharmaceutical industry’s excessive profits and expanding patent rights.