Senator Risa Hontiveros has filed a Senate resolution urging Malacañang to support an international campaign to ease intellectual property (IP) agreements to ensure universal access to affordable and effective COVID-19 vaccine.
“In a global pandemic of unprecedented proportion, it is inhumane and unjust to let stringent IP regulations stand in the way of a vaccine that can save lives. We must stand in solidarity with other developing countries in this call so everyone, and not people in just the rich and powerful countries, will have access to COVID-19 vaccines once they become available,” she said.
Hontiveros’ proposed Senate Resolution No. 560 urges the government through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to support the proposal of India and South Africa for the World Trade Organization (WTO) to suspend the implementation, application and enforcement of relevant provisions under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for the COVID-19 vaccine. TRIPS seeks to protect IP but has in the past made new medicine and medical technology extremely expensive especially for developing countries, she said.
“Commercial prices of medicine and technology have been have been roadblocks to proper health care many times before. But this is a crisis that has put even the world’s economy to a halt, and will continue to do so if an available vaccine isn’t distributed immediately and strategically,” she said.
Hontiveros added that developing countries are in dire need of funds for social services and essential expenditures for employment, health and education, “but will also need to realign their national budget to procure a vaccine.”
“We have to make sure the trillions we’ve loaned and the billions we’ve put aside from our budget for this vaccine are worth it. Sana masusulit natin ang bawat piso para karamihan kung hindi lahat ng mahihirap natin ay mabibigyan ng bakuna,” she said. “It is crucial that we join this call to seek the support of the international community so even the poorest of the poor will get the protection that we all deserve.”
Hontiveros, who also authored the Cheaper Medicines Act of 2008 (RA 9502), noted that in the Philippines especially, there is a growing movement to limit patent protections for essential medicines and reduce the “virtual monopolies” of large pharmaceutical companies over access to life-saving and life-changing medicine. She added that Akbayan Party, which she chairs, continues to spearhead the movement especially during the pandemic in which the dire need for affordability has been even more defined.
“The COVID-19 vaccine should not be treated as a product to be sold to the highest bidder. Billions of lives are at stake here,” she said. “Only universal access to COVID-19 vaccine will save the global community from illness and economic paralysis. Only a global solution will allow us to collectively come out of the darkness.”
“Every country wants to rise from this pandemic. Waiving IP-based restrictions and increasing global collaboration for the development of a COVID-19 vaccine will allow us to come closer as a global community and fight this disease with the shared belief that every life, no matter where, is worth protecting,” she concluded.