PSI Calls for a Temporary Patent Waiver on Covid-19 Vaccines

The G20 will meet in Rome this 21 May to endorse a “Rome Declaration” – a set of principles that will serve as a guide to shape the post-pandemic recovery. According to a press release issued by the Public Services International (PSI), the organization has played an active role in the preparatory meetings leading up to this G20 Global Health Summit, and is calling for the temporary waiver on patents in the WTO TRIPs Agreement for Covid-19 vaccines, therapeutics and technology, but also for a reform of the global financial architecture to be included in this declaration.

“We urgently need the TRIPs waiver as we know the COVAX programme will not be sufficient to immunize the global population nor to prevent future pandemics. In a globalized world no one is safe until everyone is safe. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown the interconnectedness of health, environment, and the economy. To enhance response and recovery, and ensure preparedness for inevitable future pandemics, we must go to the root of the problem,” says PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli.

PSI General Secretary’s statement has come at time when the US has already announced to support TRIPS waiver for COVID-19 vaccine. The Biden administration has decided to back the TRIPS waiver on the COVID-19 vaccine. Waiving the intellectual property protections for the vaccine will save lives by enabling more countries to produce more life-saving vaccines. New Zealand has also followed the US decision to support the vaccine waiver. But the EU, UK, Switzerland, Australia, Japan, Brazil & Norway are blocking wider vaccine production globally.

In the meantime, community health workers of Pakistan have also urged rich countries of the world to support this waiver. While welcoming US support, they have urged other countries to follow suit. All Sindh Lady Health Workers and Employees Union (ASLHWEU), and Punjab Ladies Health Workers Union (PLHWU) have written letters to the governments of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Australia, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, UK, USA, and the European Union.

The PSI further adds in its press release that financing global commons and future preparedness requires a swift and radical shift from the various forms of mixed financing (i.e. PPPs, innovative, creative financing, private insurance). It means we need a reform of the global financial architecture that:

  • enables countries to create the fiscal policy space needed to invest in public health systems;
  • removes IFIs conditionalities which constrict public funding, included public sector wage bill caps;
  • promotes debt cancellation for LDCs, debt relief for developing countries and the removal of artificial debt ratios for developed countries;
  • adopts a global Multinational Corporations tax reform.

“Global health securitization cannot be the point of departure for defending our global commons, including pandemic preparedness. These have been eroded by years of underfunding and understaffing of public health systems promoted by austerity measures. Universal access to quality public services is needed for the ‘One Health’ approach that can lay a solid base for emergency prevention, preparedness, readiness, response, and recovery as a continuum,” adds Pavanelli.

Based on an OECD conservative estimate, every year, US$ 427 billion in tax are lost to tax havens, causing devastating social impact. Globally, it is equivalent to over 34 million annual nurses’ salaries each year, double of what is needed to fill the global staff shortage according to the UN. It is no longer sustainable that trillions of taxpayers’ money is injected to support the economy while corporations profit from pandemic. A 25% minimum tax on corporate and a wealth tax are necessary to immediately raise revenues.

Covid-19 pandemic has shown the failure of a global and national system where corporations, financial institutions and sometimes also philanthropic foundations influence decisions that impact on the capacity of governments to regulate and take the initiatives needed in the public interest. Rebuilding trust and confidence in multilateral democratic institutions that protect the general interest is crucial to ensure global governance and coordination as well as addressing critical financing gaps. Building the post-Covid-19 world we desire and ensuring pandemic preparedness requires the unalloyed commitment of governments to funding universal public health systems

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