Government must put lives before big pharma profits

Civil society groups in Australia and across Asia are calling for the Australian Government to back a revised proposal to temporarily suspend intellectual property rights for vaccines and technology needed to fight COVID-19. 


The People’s Vaccine Alliance (PVA) in Asia has issued an open letter to the Australian Government, urging it to support the revised Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting on 8-9 June 2021.

Michelle Higelin, Executive Director of ActionAid Australia said, “Governments and global corporations must put people before profit if we are to defeat the pandemic.

“Countries in South Asia such as India, Bangladesh, and Nepal are facing catastrophic surges in COVID-19 cases but don’t have access to the vaccines and technologies to contain the virus.  Meanwhile global pharmaceutical companies are refusing to share the science and technology required to speed up mass production and distribution.”

The TRIPS proposal put forward by South Africa and India, and supported by more than 100 WTO member states, would see a temporary waiver of international intellectual property rules during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health experts worldwide say it is urgently needed to save lives and bring an end to the pandemic.

“ActionAid welcomes the Australian government’s announcement last week of an extra $50 million to the COVAX facility,” Ms Higelin said.

“It will support rapid, fair, and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, and other emergency vaccine shipments to neighbouring countries like Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste. However, these initiatives alone will not achieve universal vaccine access, nor be sufficient to prevent, treat or contain COVID-19.

“This crisis is deepening poverty and inequality, particularly for women. New calculations from the People’s Vaccine Alliance have found that people in developed countries were 77 percent more likely to be offered a vaccine than those living in the world’s poorest countries. At the current speed of vaccination, it will take decades to achieve global vaccine coverage.”

PVA is calling for multinational pharmaceutical companies and wealthy governments to provide open access to knowledge and technology by voluntarily joining the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool led by the World Health Organisation.

“Australia must set an example for other wealthy countries by supporting the revised TRIPS waiver and joining the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool. The survival of millions of people depends on it.”

For more information and interviews, contact ActionAid Australia’s media manager, Liz Pick – [email protected] or +61 422 105 842.

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Note to editor

Over 30 civil society organisations and networks across Asia have backed the letter from the People’s Vaccine Alliance to the Australian Government. Endorsers including ActionAid Australia and major alliances in Asia that are composed of hundreds of member organisations, including the South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication, Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development, and Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP).