Open letter to the First Minister: Make any Covid-19 Vaccine Affordable for All

A group of unions, charities, campaign groups and think-tanks have written to First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon urging her to commit to Crown Use Licensing for any Covid-19 vaccines and medicines, to ensure they are available and affordable for everyone. We re-publish the letter below. To find out more about the campaign, click here. […]

A group of unions, charities, campaign groups and think-tanks have written to First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon urging her to commit to Crown Use Licensing for any Covid-19 vaccines and medicines, to ensure they are available and affordable for everyone. We re-publish the letter below. To find out more about the campaign, click here.

Open letter to the First Minister:

Commitment to use of Crown Use Licensing to tackle the Covid-19 global emergency

Dear First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP,

We are a group of social justice, health and trade justice organisations and trade unions, calling for equitable and just international solutions to the global health emergency that Covid-19 presents. As research and development of diagnostics, treatments and vaccines to treat this health emergency progresses internationally, we want to ensure that these treatments will be affordable for the NHS in Scotland, the UK and also for the rest of the world.

We are calling for the Scottish government to publicly commit to utilising Crown Use Licensing to ensure access to Covid-19 vaccines and treatments. The right to use Crown Use – referred to as compulsory licensing internationally – is affirmed in the provisions of the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement), which provides flexibilities for the protection of public health and promotes access to medicines for all. In response to the pandemic, the governments of Germany and Canada have already amended domestic patent laws in order to fast-track compulsory licensing of Covid-19 related medicines, equipment and vaccines if it is needed. The parliaments of Chile and Ecuador have also passed resolutions that commit to the use of compulsory licensing, and Israel has already issued a compulsory license for a medicine believed to be an effective treatment for the virus.

We ask you to make a statement committing to the use of this legislation where necessary to ensure the scale-up of production as well as affordable access to any useful Covid-19 related products and treatments. Covid-19 is unprecedented as a public health emergency, and access to these medical products cannot be restricted by intellectual property rights.

Last week, we were heartened to read the letter to the UK government led by Phillippa Whitford MP, as chair of the APPG on Vaccinations for All, calling on them to help ensure Covid-19 health technologies, including diagnostics, treatments and vaccines will be accessible to all by taking some practical steps. One of the steps suggested in the letter was that the UK government make use of Crown Use Licenses where necessary to ensure affordable access to treatment. The letter was signed by 130 parliamentarians, including a number of SNP MPs.

We hope that the Scottish Government can commit to the use of these domestic patent laws, which is within the scope of Scotland’s devolved powers and is a practical step to ensure treatment is available to all who need it. Commitment to the use of Crown Use License laws would also show the Scottish government’s commitment to compulsory licensing as a necessary step internationally. This is especially true for countries in the global south who can find the cost of pharmaceutical medicines prohibitive even without a global health and economic crisis.

At the G20 Health Ministers meeting last month the G20 committed, in response to the global health emergency, to expand manufacturing capacity to meet the need for medical products and make them widely available, at an affordable price, on an equitable basis, where they are most needed and as quickly as possible. By committing to the use of Crown Use License legislation, the Scottish Government would help to ensure that this G20
commitment is met in Scotland, in a similar way to Germany, Canada, Chile and Ecuador.

While the response to the coronavirus pandemic needs co-ordination nationally and internationally, a commitment to using Crown Use Licensing in Scotland where necessary during this epidemic would show Scotland leading the way in the UK through its guarantee of equal access to diagnostics, treatments and vaccines for all citizens. Such a commitment would also support governments around the world who understand the huge benefits of compulsory licensing for publicly funded health services and for patients.

Yours Sincerely,

Global Justice Now
Just Treatment
Stop AIDS
Students for Global Health
Common Weal
Jubilee Scotland
The Poverty Alliance
STUC
UNISON Scotland
UNITE Scotland
Dr Stephanie Switzer, lecturer, Strathclyde University Law School
Prospect Scotland
TSSA
College of Podiatry
People’s Assembly Scotland
National Union of Mineworkers Scotland Area
Glasgow Youth Stop AIDS
St Andrews TTIP Action Group
S.A.N.E
Kilmarnock and Loudoun Trades Union Council
Edinburgh Trade Union Council
Clydebank Trade Union Council
Irvine and North Ayrshire TUC
Dumfries Trade Union Council
Unison West Dunbarton Branch
Unison Housing and Care Scotland

Paisley and District Trades Council
Fife and District Branch RMT
Midlothian Trade Union Council

Picture courtesy of Matt Allworth