A new poll released Friday found that a whopping 94% of adults in the United States do not want pharmaceutical companies to control the global supply of Covid-19 vaccines, further supporting international demands to achieve universal access to immunization through more knowledge sharing, technology transfer and public production of doses.
“These results show that Biden has the support of the American public to help countries around the world regain control of vaccine supplies and save millions of lives.”
—Solange Baptiste, ITPC
That 94% figure includes respondents who expressed no preference, and it revealed a strong bipartisan consensus, with 96% of Biden voters and 92% of Trump voters agreeing. The online survey was conducted by YouGov between June 9-10 on behalf of Medicine Equality Now! campaign, which seeks to dismantle intellectual property (IP) barriers that cause millions of unnecessary deaths per year by compromising equal access to life-saving medicines.
While pollsters have found that the vast majority of Americans do not know to what extent the pharmaceutical giants exercise monopoly powers over vaccine manufacturing and underestimate how much money a few private companies have made selling doses, they also found that 50% of adults in the country – including half of Trump voters – consider it unacceptable that Big Pharma has made any substantial profit from vaccines developed with public funds.
“The majority of the American public is not satisfied with the current system of access to vaccines,” Gregg Gonsalves, associate professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health and activist for global health, said in a statement. “As Americans, we know how drug companies operate, putting profits first before saving lives.”
“More alarmingly,” Gonsalves noted, “many are just unaware that the global recovery from this pandemic is being controlled by a small number of drug companies – the exact system they said they didn’t want.”
According to the survey, only 20% of the American public believed that pharmaceutical companies had the most control over the global vaccine supply.
In addition, just over a quarter of those surveyed (26%) knew that Big Pharma had made “very significant” profits since the start of the vaccine rollout.
According to the survey:
- 66% believed that the pharmaceutical companies had made some profit;
- 12% thought the benefits were “quite small”;
- 28% thought the benefits were “significant enough”; and
- 26% thought the benefits were “very significant”.
Meanwhile, Business intelligence estimated earlier this year that Moderna and BioNTech / Pfizer, respectively, will make $ 8 billion and $ 4 billion in profits from Covid-19 vaccines this year alone, and Interception reported that executives plan to increase dose prices “in the near future.”
According to the survey, a majority of American adults want the World Health Organization (WHO) (31%) or national governments (24%) to have the most control over the global vaccine supply.
“Even in countries where vaccine deployment is at an advanced stage, the public still does not want for-profit pharmaceutical companies to control the global drug supply,” said Solange Baptiste, executive director of the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC), said in a statement.
The new poll results come less than a week after the G7 summit – where leaders of the wealthiest countries met to discuss responses to the coronavirus pandemic and other urgent crises, including the emergency climate and worsening inequalities – was viewed by progressives as a “colossal failure” because of “the growing gap between their actions and the needs of the world”.
The G7 countries have pledged to give only 613 million new doses to impoverished nations over the next year, well below the promised billion, which is also woefully insufficient, experts say, given that immunization a sufficient percentage of the world’s population will require several billions of additional dollars. dose.
Currently, of the 2.5 billion vaccines administered worldwide, only 0.3% went to the arms of people living in low-income countries, with people in high- and middle-income countries receiving 86% of the doses, according to New York Times. Vaccination rates in North America (68%) and Europe (59%) are much higher than in South America (35%), Asia (32%), Oceania (18%) and Africa (3.1%).
This manifestation of global inequality, which critics have called “vaccine apartheid”, has intensified the spread of the coronavirus, particularly in South Asia, Latin America and Africa.
A recent analysis by a coalition of humanitarian groups estimated that at current rates, it would take 57 years for low-income countries to fully immunize their populations against the virus.
As public health experts and global justice activists have pointed out for months, rich countries donating extra doses they have accumulated “will not end the pandemic.”
Instead, they argue, governments around the world should endorse the World Trade Organization (WTO) motion to temporarily waive the Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and push for drug manufacturers to share relevant technology via the WHO Covid-. 19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP).
“Even in countries where vaccine deployment is at an advanced stage, the public still does not want for-profit drug companies to control the global drug supply.”
Suspending Big Pharma’s patent protections related to the coronavirus for the duration of the pandemic and strengthening technology transfers, advocates say, would remove major obstacles to the production of generic Covid-19 tests, treatments and vaccines.
According to Medicine Equality Now !, 118 of the 164 WTO members, including the United States, currently support the TRIPS waiver. Although formal negotiations based on the text of the proposal are underway, several members of the European Union, as well as the United Kingdom and a few other countries, continue to side with Big Pharma in opposing the proposal. measured.
Public health experts have pointed out that wealthy governments can take other steps to advance universal access to life-saving Covid-19 vaccines, in addition to supporting the WTO’s TRIPS waiver and the C initiative. -WHO TAP.
As Common dreams reported, a coalition of more than 60 progressive rights groups, led by Public Citizen, called on Biden to establish a global vaccine production program to end the Covid-19 pandemic and prepare for future ones. Earlier this month, 42 House Democrats joined the chorus.
Public Citizen recently explained how an investment of just $ 25 billion, or roughly 3% of what the United States spends each year on its military, would be enough to set up regional manufacturing centers around the world to produce eight billion. doses of coronavirus vaccine in less than a year.
So far, Covid-19 has claimed the lives of more than 3.8 million people worldwide, including 2.7 million since the TRIPS waiver was first proposed by India and Africa South last October, and the WHO recently estimated that the true death toll from the pandemic could be between six and eight million people.
Epidemiologists have warned that the longer the pandemic continues due to the refusal of many wealthy countries and pharmaceutical companies to make vaccines available to everyone on the planet, the more likely the virus will be to mutate, which could lead to a vaccine. . resilient variants that further endanger billions of lives and livelihoods around the world.
In light of the G7’s failure to craft a plan capable of ending the pandemic, Progressive International called an emergency summit this weekend, where vaccine makers, healthcare workers and government officials , including ministers from the Global South, will meet virtually to discuss how to foster “vaccine internationalism” that the global left believes is necessary to “produce, distribute and deliver Covid-19 vaccines for all.”
Baptiste, for his part, called the TRIPS Agreement “perhaps the worst international deal in the world” and said that “this pandemic clearly illustrates why we need permanent reform.”
Referring to the new poll, she added that “these results show that President Joe Biden has the support of the American public to help countries around the world take back control of vaccine supplies and save millions of lives.” .