From Salud por Derecho we welcome and support the Solidarity Call to Action in response to COVID-19, launched last Friday 29th by the World Health Organization and Costa Rica. An initiative based on a common technology pool in which countries, institutions, pharmaceutical companies, and other R&D actors can, voluntarily, place data, knowledge, and intellectual property, on future and existing health products against COVID-19—such as vaccines, medicines, or diagnostics—that will be offered as «global public goods».
From Salud por Derecho we understand ‘global public goods’ to mean that these products should be made available to all persons who need it, on a non-profit basis, aiming to achieve a common objective: protect life and health.
Accordingly, it is vital that the response to the current world health crisis is channeled through an R&D model different from its current form. Today, monopolies for medicines and health technologies by pharmaceutical companies hamper the access to medicines, vaccines, and other products of millions of people worldwide.
Therefore, this initiative by the WHO and Costa Rica, that facilitates the open exchange of data free from intellectual property, is a great step forward and will significantly help the scientific community and companies access the information required to produce existing or new technologies, and increase their availability worldwide, reducing costs, and increasing production on a large scale, thereby facilitating access by all those persons who need it.
Nevertheless, it may not be sufficient, as this technology access pool for COVID-19 is voluntary, and therefore the access of millions of people to the medicines and vaccines will continue to be a challenge. More firm and binding commitments are needed by all governments to ensure that no one is left behind in the fight against this pandemic.
On the other hand, and on a national scale, there is an urgent need for governments to introduce specific laws and conditions in the agreements with public R&D stakeholders and, above all, private stakeholders that receive public funding, so that those products that are developed with these funds and considered and treated as global public goods, with fair and accessible prices based on the real costs of research.
It is also essential that the vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics developed with this public funding are free from intellectual property by applying non-exclusivity in the licensing processes, thereby avoiding monopolies and facilitating that various producers can manufacture and distribute them to supply the needs of all countries, especially those in low- and middle-income countries.
Many countries have already supported this initiative of the WHO and Costa Rica, among which Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, The Netherlands, and Uruguay, stand out. The support of many more is expected over the next few weeks via the website created by the WHO. Funding entities in research and development, institutions, and businesses are also able to express their support.
From Salud por Derecho, we celebrate and support this initiative, which is a step forward towards a more fair R&D model centred on the health needs of the population. We also call on the Government of Spain, still absent, to actively join this global solidarity platform.