How much will we really pay for the Covid-19 vaccine? How is public money being used? Why are all contracts between the Commission and pharmaceutical companies secret? Why should the results of heavily publicly funded R&D and public money used to advance agreements be owned only by the industry and not by the public? Should the vaccine be a public good?
These were just some of the questions that MEPs Katerina Konecna (KSČM, Czechia), Marc Botenga (PTB, Belgium) and Marisa Matias (Bloco de Esquerda, Portugal) asked today to the pharmaceutical companies and the European pharmaceutical lobby EFPIA.
But even after another hearing (third in a row after the debate with Commissioner Kyriakides and the Deputy Director-General of DG SANTE) this time with the head of pharmaceutical companies and industries, we did not get answers to our questions. Worse, some companies, like AstraZeneca that receive hundreds of millions of European public money, refused to appear and answer at all.
On the contrary, the few questions that were answered aroused more concerns. There will be no transparency for the Covid-19 vaccine purchase agreements before they are all concluded and finalised. Member states will pay compensation for hidden vaccine defects instead of pharmaceutical companies, and no one even talks about the presence of GMOs in the vaccine. The chairman of pharmaceutical company Curevac even stated that he found it normal that the public should bear the risk for any liability in case a vaccine is not successful.
Sidney Wong, director of the MSF Access Campaign, on the other hand, made an important point that is too often “forgotten” or hidden by neo-liberal orthodoxy: patents which are officially supposed to foster innovation, can actually slow down vaccine innovation & availability.
That’s why we need to say no to private monopolies. We need non-exclusive licences.