Instead of rolling out the red carpet for private vaccine producers, we should reduce our reliance on corporations that put profits ahead of global public health.
MONTREAL – On Friday morning, Prime Minister Trudeau and Quebec Premier François Legault are set to announce the opening of a new plant in Montreal for the pharmaceutical giant Moderna. But while the move has been celebrated for expanding mRNA vaccine research and production capacity in the country, our governments should not be pumping money into companies that have consistently prioritized their own profits at the expense of global public health.
“Rather than rolling out the red carpet for private vaccine producers, our leaders should be doing everything they can to increase publicly-owned domestic production capacity,” says Christina Warner, Co-Executive Director of the Council of Canadians. “We need only to look to the example of Connaught Labs, the publicly-owned Canadian powerhouse that produced its own vaccines and distributed them around the globe for seven decades.”
“Private pharmaceutical companies like Moderna have denied millions of people across the globe access to life-saving vaccines throughout the pandemic, thereby bolstering their own profits,” Warner adds.
Of the 670 million vaccine doses it produced in 2021, Moderna delivered only 2 percent to low-income countries, choosing instead to sell its doses to wealthier countries at huge profit margins. The company has created further barriers to access by opposing a proposal to waive intellectual property rights on COVID vaccines at the World Trade Organization, as well as refusing to share its mRNA technology with other countries.
“Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel and his company have been prime architects of global vaccine inequity, which has cost countless lives and given the virus the chance to continue spreading and mutating,” says Nikolas Barry-Shaw, Trade and Privatization campaigner at the Council of Canadians. “Our governments should not subsidize companies making excessive profits off of life-saving vaccines that should be accessible to everyone.”
The World Trade Organization is meeting in June to decide on the call to lift patents on vaccines, therapeutics and other medical products needed to fight COVID-19. The government of Canada has so far refused to support the call for a waiver of intellectual property rules.
“This federal government has continually buckled under the pressure coming from pharmaceutical industry lobbyists – whether it’s in improving global vaccine access, moving on universal public pharmacare, or implementing drug pricing reforms,” Barry-Shaw added. “The ceremony in Montreal continues that trend.”
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