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‘No Profit On Pandemic’, a new European Citizen’s Initiative (ECI), demands the European Commission to make anti-pandemic vaccines and treatments a global public good, freely accessible to everyone. The ECI is a way to propose concrete legislative action to the European Commission. For the initiative to be considered by the Commission, it needs to get 1 million people from across the EU to sign it in support.  At the time of writing, the action was backed by 225 networks and organizations at the EU and national level, and gathered more than 85.000 signatures.

Drawing on the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, ‘No Profit On Pandemic’ puts forward four demands for action.

  1. Health for all. Intellectual property rights, including patents, should not hamper the accessibility or availability of any future Covid-19 vaccine or treatment. Patents provide one single company with the monopoly control over essential pharmaceutical products, thereby limiting availability and increasing costs for those who need them. Because all citizens have a right to health, the initiative argues that a pandemic requires research and technologies to be shared broadly, fast, across the globe.
  2. No profit on pandemic. The EU legislation on data and market exclusivity should not limit the immediate effectiveness of compulsory licenses issued by Member States. Public funds should always come with guarantees on availability and affordability, and big Pharma should not be allowed to plunder social security systems.
  3. Public money, public control. The Commission should introduce legal obligations for beneficiaries from EU-funds to share COVID-19 health technology related knowledge, intellectual property and/or data in a technology or patent pool. Big pharmaceutical companies should not be allowed to privatize crucial health technologies that have been developed with public resources.
  4. Transparency now. The initiative calls for more transparency regarding contracts between public authorities and pharmaceutical companies. This encompasses data on production costs, public contributions, and on the effectiveness and safety of vaccines and medicines.

Pfizer expects to sell $15 billion worth of Covid-19 vaccines in 2021, making it the second-highest revenue-generating drug in history. For the first time, the European Commission is showing some opposition against pharmaceutical companies. It will set up a vaccine export transparency mechanism to track the number of doses produced and where they are going. This measure specifically targets exports of COVID-19 vaccines covered by an Advance Purchase Agreement (APA) with the EU. These exports will be subject to an early notification and authorisation before they are effectively shipped outside the EU.

According to ‘No Profit On Pandemic’, limiting the export of vaccines outside of the EU is not a fair solution, as countries with less financial resources are already second in line to receive protection. Rather, the European Commission should tackle the roots of the problem – limiting pharma companies exclusive intellectual property rights so other countries can also produce the vaccine at a faster rate, for a lower price.

Photo credits Daniel Chetroni

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