Imee Calls For Global Price Ceiling For COVID-19 Vaccines

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Senator Imee Marcos said world leaders must agree on a global price ceiling, even a waiver on patents for vaccines, if less developed countries are to gain greater access to immunization against Covid-19.

Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs, urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to use its clout to start a new way of doing business in the manufacture, patenting, pricing, and distribution of vaccines for Covid-19 and future pandemics.

Marcos said the ASEAN gained more influence as a trade bloc after its 10 member nations signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement last week with five non-member states including Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

“The RCEP represents about a third of the world’s population and global GDP,” Marcos explained.

“We need a global accord on Covid-19 vaccines, a standard ceiling on vaccine prices, diversified manufacturing and supply in all world regions,” Marcos said.

“The ASEAN can initiate a new normal for patents and copyrights, a world order of fairness, compassion and commitment to the common good,” Marcos added.

As the G20 met this weekend to address the Covid-19 pandemic, Marcos said the ASEAN must hold the group comprising the European Union and 19 member states to its official statement in March to “spare no effort, both individually and collectively, to protect lives and safeguard people’s jobs and incomes.”

Marcos added that a World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement known as TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) can be invoked to moderate vaccine patents during a global public health emergency.

“Less developed countries remain at the mercy of global pharmaceutical firms that hold the patents and dictate the prices of vaccines,” Marcos said.

“Pharmaceutical firms must not forget the priceless role of human participation in vaccine trials. No vaccine could be created without it, so it’s about time they give back to the people of the world,” Marcos added.

At least five pharmaceutical firms are racing to complete four-phase trials for a Covid-19 vaccine, with American firm Pfizer leading the pack which includes another US firm, Moderna, the UK-based Oxford/Astra-Zeneca, China’s Sinovac Biotech, and Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute.

“Pfizer already made a killing on Viagra. Let’s hope the race to come up with a vaccine is guided mainly by the concern to save as many lives rather than to make as much profit as possible,” Marcos said.