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Morrison backs big pharma, turns back to developing countries

  • June 10 2021
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Morrison backs big pharma, turns back to developing countries

By Cameron Micallef
June 10 2021

Big pharma is currently fighting to maintain intellectual property protections over COVID-19 vaccines, with Australia refusing to act despite having no pharmaceutical companies.

Morrison backs big pharma

Morrison backs big pharma, turns back to developing countries

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  • June 10 2021
  • Share

Big pharma is currently fighting to maintain intellectual property protections over COVID-19 vaccines, with Australia refusing to act despite having no pharmaceutical companies.

Morrison backs big pharma

The Australian government is under increasing pressure to follow the lead set by the United States and New Zealand and publicly support moves to temporarily waive patents on COVID-19 vaccines in order to allow developing countries to make and sell cheap copies.

Despite the pandemic, the COVID-19 vaccines are owned by big pharmaceutical corporations that, as it currently stands, are refusing to share their science and know-how to enable mass production.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is currently pushing for a temporary waiver of intellectual property rules during the COVID-19 pandemic, as proposed by South Africa and India.

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As it currently stands, 120 nations, including China and Russia, support wavering the 1995 WTO-instated 20-year patent provision that protects the IP rights for newly produced vaccines with the goal to achieve a quicker end to the global pandemic.

But, and despite not being home to a COVID vaccine manufacturer, the Morrison government has yet to sign the permit waiver.

Speaking to nestegg, ActionAid Australia’s executive director, Michelle Higelin, urged the government to do more. Ms Higelin argued that current rules only serve the interest of big pharmaceutical companies and act against the survival of millions of people who urgently need a vaccine.

“The Australian government said in answer to Senate estimates questions last week that it has not decided whether to support the temporary waiver on WTO rules to share intellectual property on vaccines, treatments and equipment, despite saying that it is open to this,” she said.

Academics urge the government to act

While the Morrison government remains slow to act, pressure from lawyers and advocacy groups is starting to lift, with many fearing the government is behaving under the influence of big pharma.

A group of 150 Australian lawyers and legal scholars have signed an open letter urging Prime Minister Scott Morrison to back the waivers.

The open letter, organised by La Trobe academic Dr Julia Dehm, highlighted how Australia is helping the world fall further behind on treatment.

“The longer it takes for the global population to be vaccinated and achieve herd immunity, the more likely it is that further COVID-19 outbreaks will threaten Australia’s relative security and prosperity. Approximately 11 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines are needed to vaccinate 70 per cent of the world’s population and achieve population-level or herd immunity.

“To date, the World Health Organisation approximates that 1.2 billion doses have been administered.

“Based on current trajectories, mass immunisation in poorer countries could take until 2024 or longer,” Dr Dehm said.

People and not profits

Amnesty International Australia and a number of other civil society groups, including GetUP, have collected 50,000 signatures for the petition, which was personally delivered to DFAT’s Sydney office on Monday.

Tim O'Connor from Amnesty International said the petition urges the Australian delegation at this week’s WTO meeting to take a leadership role and openly support the proposal on the patent waiver.

“Amnesty International is calling on the Australian government to stop blocking the TRIPs waiver and not put big pharma ahead of people,” he said.

“Australia has a vital role to play in the equal access of vaccines, particularly in our region. We want Australia to be the good global citizen when it comes to promoting and defending human rights, especially in the time of COVID-19.”

Paul Oosting, GetUp national director, said the PM must stand with the people.

“It’s abhorrent that Australia is one of 12 member states blocking this life-saving proposal,” he said.

“The COVID-19 vaccine waiver is more than just intellectual property – it’s a matter of life and death.”

 

Morrison backs big pharma, turns back to developing countries
Morrison backs big pharma
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About the author

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Cameron is a journalist for Momentum Media's nestegg and Smart Property Investment. He enjoys giving Aussies practical financial tips and tricks to help grow their wealth and achieve financial independence. As a self-confessed finance nerd, Cameron enjoys chatting with industry experts and commentators to leverage their insights to grow your portfolio.

About the author

author image
Cameron Micallef

Cameron is a journalist for Momentum Media's nestegg and Smart Property Investment. He enjoys giving Aussies practical financial tips and tricks to help grow their wealth and achieve financial independence. As a self-confessed finance nerd, Cameron enjoys chatting with industry experts and commentators to leverage their insights to grow your portfolio.

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