Now that lower-income countries have started developing Covid-19 vaccines, pharmaceutical industry goons are threatening South African manufacturers with patent infringement. Documents have surfaced that expose Big Pharma effort to kill Africa’s COVID vaccine project.
An organization representing BioNTech, Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine partner, has been working behind the scenes to sabotage African scientists’ expanding attempt to build an mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine, according to documents published Wednesday by a leading medical journal.
The kENUP Foundation encouraged South African officials to close down a World Health Organization-backed project aimed at developing an mRNA vaccine using Moderna’s injection as a template in August, according to The BMJ.
In a 20-page paper (read below), the kENUP Foundation mentioned two South African firms involved in the vaccine endeavor saying, “The WHO Vaccine Technology Transfer Hub’s project of copying the manufacturing process of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine should be terminated immediately. This is to prevent damage to Afrigen, BioVac, and Moderna.”
The BMJ reported that as an alternative kENUP supported, “BioNTech’s proposal to ship mRNA factories housed in sea containers from Europe to Africa, initially staffed with BioNTech workers, and a proposed new regulatory pathway to approve the vaccines made in these factories.”
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The the journal further reported, “The novel pathway has been described as paternalistic and unworkable by some experts, as it seems to bypass local regulators.”
The pharmaceutical industry’s repeated reluctance to share its technologies with the public which prevents lower-income countries with the opportunity to create their own vaccines, compelled South Africa’s mRNA effort, which has now begun to show results. South African scientists and the WHO chose to try to reproduce Moderna’s vaccines using information that is available to the public, including the shot’s mRNA sequence, in the lack of support from Big Pharma or powerful governments.
The new vaccine’s safety testing are scheduled to commence later this year. The kENUP Foundation’s campaign has outraged public health campaigners who have commended the efforts of South African scientists.
“To push for the termination of this lifesaving project in order to protect the interests of pharmaceutical companies is shameful, at a time when over 90% of people in the poorest countries still haven’t been fully vaccinated,” Oxfam International’s health policy manager, Anna Marriott, said in a statement on Thursday.
“What needs terminating are the pharmaceutical monopolies locking the lifesaving vaccines out of reach for millions of people across low- and middle-income countries.”
Marriott added,”The failure of rich country governments to step in and break these all-powerful monopolies is unforgivable. They must end their blind faith that profit-hungry pharma corporations will voluntarily do the right thing by humanity.”
The kENUP Foundation stated in an August letter to South African officials that the “sustainability outlook” for the WHO-backed mRNA project “is not favorable,” noting that Moderna may resume patent enforcement once the pandemic is proclaimed over, causing possibly major legal issues. Officials working on the initiative, though, assert that it is not infringing on any patents.
Last Monday, Martin Friede, a WHO official who is helping to organize the program, told Politico, “There’s no infringement taking place here whatsoever.” The Medicines Patent Pool, a UN-backed group that supports the South African initiative, refuted “unfounded rumors” that the mRNA vaccine technology center “intends to infringe patents” in a November statement.
“The Medicines Patent Pool, which is responsible for the intellectual property and licensing elements of the hub, wishes to make it clear that this is not the case,” the group stated. “MPP will ensure that technology used in the hub is either not covered by patents or that licenses and/or commitments-not-to-enforce are in place to enable freedom to operate.”
“Clearly, somebody has been going around Africa saying that we’re going to infringe patents, which is extremely unfortunate since it’s completely untrue,” Charles Gore, executive director of MPP, told The BMJ.
According to The BMJ, “South African law contains a provision authorizing scientists and manufacturers to carry out research and development regardless of patent protection, meaning that the hub’s reverse engineering of Moderna’s vaccine is legal.”
“Moderna has also publicly promised not to enforce its Covid-19 related patents during the pandemic and said that it was willing to license its intellectual property after that period,”according to the publication.”The hub is in talks with Moderna to obtain such a license.”
“For two years, Western pharmaceutical giants have peddled falsehoods claiming that intellectual property rules are not a barrier to global vaccine production,” said Fatima Hassan, founder and director of the Health Justice Initiative in South Africa, on Thursday.
“Yet, now that lower-income countries have started developing Covid-19 vaccines, pharmaceutical industry goons are threatening South African manufacturers with patent infringement,” Hassan added. “This shameful scaremongering is further evidence that world leaders need to suspend intellectual property on all Covid-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments to unlock the productive capacity needed to end this pandemic.”
Hassan continued,”If we don’t, Big Pharma will try to bully and intimidate Global South manufacturers into submission.”
Earlier, the US, UK and the EU countries blocked India and South Africa’s move to ban COVID-19 vaccine patents at the WTO (World Trade Organization). The proposal was vehemently opposed on the grounds that such a ban would stifle innovation at pharmaceutical companies by robbing them of the incentive to make huge investments in research and development.
Read the full document below: