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“Success of South Africa vaccine project highlights pharma industry hypocrisy” - Chris MacManus MEP

3 February, 2022 - by Chris MacManus MEP

“Success of South Africa vaccine project highlights pharma industry hypocrisy” - Chris MacManus MEP
“I welcome the news of early successes from the Afrigen/Biovac mRNA hub in Cape Town, which is seeking to replicate its own mRNA vaccine against Covid-19,” said Chris MacManus, Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands Northwest. “I cannot help being struck that this success comes despite a lack of cooperation from big multinational pharmaceutical companies, further highlighting the hypocrisy of these companies that refuse to place the health of all above their profits.”

The mRNA hub, supported by the WHO and led by South African companies Afrigen and Biovac, is aiming to copy Moderna’s mRNA vaccine, in order to share the knowledge with other potential vaccine producers, particularly in lower-income countries. Their long-term goal is to develop mRNA production capacity in these countries that can respond not just to Covid-19 but also to diseases like TB and malaria. This will lift the dependence of many countries on unpredictable vaccine donations from wealthier nations.
“What is noteworthy is that this WHO-supported project tried to receive a technology transfer from Moderna and BioNTech, but both companies have so far refused to come on board,” said MacManus. “Moderna’s declaration that they will not enforce patents on their vaccines during the pandemic was the permission the project needed to attempt to copy Moderna’s vaccine. However, if the company were to join the project, it could significantly shorten the length of time needed for trials and permitting, by up to two years. It is mind-boggling that these companies are ignoring the calls of willing and capable partners that can help improve vaccine access and save more lives.”

“These are the same companies that, when campaigning against a TRIPS Waiver on intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, insist that they are already working extensively in lower-income countries, and that the capacity to produce mRNA vaccines simply does not exist in these countries. The Afrigen/Biovac hub is proof of the opposite: that independent manufacturers do have the expertise to produce mRNA vaccines, and that big multinationals have made conscious decisions not to help them do so more quickly.”
The Sinn Féin MEP called for a fairer global effort. “We need a democratisation of the access to these vaccines, and other treatments for Covid-19. The multinational vaccine producers are seeking to maintain control over the production of their vaccines all over the world. The last year has shown that this model makes vaccines more expensive and less accessible to lower-income countries. We need a global shift towards a model where regional manufacturers have the means to produce the vaccines the need, in accordance with their specific local circumstances. The EU should support this right to access to medicines, both financially and through legal measures like the TRIPS Waiver. As part of achieving this I would call on people to sign the European Citizens’ Initiative at
MacManus concluded, “The Afrigen/Biovac hub has achieved their success in the face of many avoidable scientific and legal hurdles. Now is the time to lift those barriers for the projects that follow.” ENDS

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