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WHO Assembly, MSF: No to Patents and Profits on Tests and Vaccines. Everyone’s Right to Access

The 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO) opens. The focus will be the resolution, presented by the European Union on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Medici Senza Frontiere (MSF, Doctors Without Borders Italy), one of the accredited organizations, renews its appeal to governments urging them not to deposit patents on drugs, tests and vaccines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Regarding the vaccine in particular, MSF is asking that once it is available and economically accessible, it should be mass produced in order to satisfy global demands.

The following is a statement issued by Silvia Mancini, MSF public health expert:

Since the pandemic began, we have seen many countries acting in their own best interest and multinational pharmaceutical companies that have used fast-track methods for patenting and other forms of exclusive rights. The approaches used by pharmaceutical companies in the past cannot work in a pandemic of this magnitude.

Recently, Gilead Sciences signed volunteer licensing agreements on its drug, Remdesivir, with five generic drug producers but it excluded the entire continent of Latin America and countries such as China from the agreement, practically half the world’s population.

We should not have patents during a global pandemic nor should we rely on the goodwill of pharmaceutical companies to respond to a global public health emergency. Access to drugs is everyone’s right.

The WHO should have a leading role in establishing the collective global management of available PPEs and medical devices to respond to COVID-19. Technology, data and know-how must be shared unconditionally with the approved right to use and produce them for all countries,” said Silvia Mancini of MSF.

In recent weeks, many initiatives have been launched to accelerate research and development, and equal access to medical tools needed to treat, prevent and diagnose the Coronavirus including the launch of Access to Covid-19 Tools – the ACT Accelerator, a financial commitment by governments and other global public health leaders, a request by the government of Costa Rica to the WHO to create a pool for sharing technologies and intellectual property , and the resolution presented at the World Health Assembly.

MSF is asking the WHO General Assembly for:

  • new medical tools and drugs being developed to respond to the COVID-19 (data, technology, know-how) to be shared globally;
  • all existing political and legal legislation, including flexibility on intellectual property rights (the so-called TRIPS – Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights), to be used to remove patents and other monopolies that create barriers against access to drugs;
  • full transparency provided for all financial agreements regarding research and development (R&D) with binding obligations rendering all drugs equally available and accessible.

MSF and Covid-19 in Italy and the World
MSF is working in response to the pandemic in over 70 countries including Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania and South America.

MSF teams of doctors, nurses, planners, healthcare promoters support hospitals and healthcare centers, train local healthcare workers on containment measures and how to protect vulnerable people, such as the elderly, the homeless and refugees, in collaboration with health authorities in various countries.

In Italy, there are over 50 MSF workers helping in the response to the COVID-19 sharing their own experiences in how to manage epidemics, in particularly in the Marche Region, Lombardy and Latium, through their support to hospitals, vulnerable communities like facilities for the elderly, GPs throughout the regions. Many operators active in MSF missions have been on the front lines for weeks alongside the doctors of the National Healthcare System.

News and updates about our activities can be found at:

You can donate to the COVID Emergency Fund launched by MSF International to support our work on the Coronavirus response in over 70 countries at:




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