COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of ensuring that health is put before profit and that access to life-saving medicines and vaccines is guaranteed for everyone, everywhere. For years, Health Action International (HAI), together with partners and allies in the access to medicines movement, has worked extensively on the need for reform of the R&D system, particularly by calling for greater transparency in public funding of biomedical research and the application of a health-oriented IP system.

The emergence of a global pandemic has put these issues into the spotlight. Our EU Projects team has continued to work tirelessly toward creating equitable access to all medicines during this time, with a focus on ensuring any vaccine or treatment created to combat COVID-19 is affordable and accessible to all, wherever they live.

In October 2020, eight months after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, India and South Africa submitted a proposal for a temporary waiver on certain articles of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) TRIPS Agreement. This so-called TRIPS waiver would cover patents, trademarks, and other intellectual property (IP) protection elements of COVID-19-related health technologies, including vaccines. The idea has since been welcomed and supported by many governments at WTO (57 are now co-sponsors), civil society from across the world, and other stakeholders, such as researchers and economists. Yet it has been met with a mixture of incredulity and hostility from pharma and a small group of countries, who have spared no effort to stifle any debate on the merits of the proposal. Read more…

Medicine shortages constitute a cross-border health threat that can have serious consequences for the lives and wellbeing of patients across Europe. Although shortages in countries like the Netherlands are nothing new and despite promises of governments of measures to avoid supply disruptions, citizens are still forced to swap products or, in worst cases, when there is no available therapeutic alternative, go without treatment.

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EU Projects during COVID-19

Over the past few months, the European Union (EU) Projects team have been working with partners across Europe to ensure access to a possible vaccine for COVID-19 will be made accessible to all, while continuing to advocate for access to medicines more generally. The team spoke on Facebook Live about COVID-19 and access to treatment, activities on a national, EU and global stage, and reframing R&D on a health needs agenda.

COVID-19 Technology Access Pool

The recent launch of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) will be remembered as a milestone in global health. Now, the pool needs the support of all stakeholders to ensure medical technologies for COVID-19 are global public goods accessible to all.

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COVID-19 Technology Pool

Clinical trials and COVID-19

COVID-19 clinical trials

Developing viable vaccines and treatments to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic is a research priority worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports there are currently ten candidate vaccines in clinical evaluation and over a hundred in the pre-clinical testing phase. Additionally, numerous clinical trials have been set up to investigate the possibility of repurposing existing drugs to treat COVID-19, such as remdesivir.

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EU Must Not Miss its Chance on WHO Technology Pool

We recently shared our comments and observations on the zero draft resolution being circulated by the European Commission representation ahead of the World Health Assembly. We commended their leadership and welcomed support for a multilateral approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a first step, and shows promise for what is now needed and expected from the European Union (EU) and its Member States.

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TRIPS-flexibilities in Health Crises and Beyond

Now, more than ever, there seems a willingness among governments to enforce measures upon the pharmaceutical and medical technology industries to safeguard public health, including the Netherlands, where the use of Compulsory Licensing has been under discussion for several months now. The issue is taking on a new urgency with other European Union Member States, such as Germany, where a modification of their patent law will expedite government use of patented technologies.

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To tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, transparency and collaboration are vital

The COVID-19 pandemic is putting societies and their public health systems to an excruciating test, both in the Global North and Global South. The pandemic also lays bare existing shortcomings in the current research and development (R&D) model, which hinders the quest for a response to the outbreak and puts lives at further risk. One thing is certain, it has generated interest and increased scrutiny of existing practices and precipitated a re-evaluation of long-held tenets and beliefs.

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research for a vaccine

Ensure transparency, affordability and availability of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, say MEPs

EU-funded medical tools and technologies COVID-19

A cross-party group of 33 MEPs has written to the European Commission expressing concern about how EU-funded medical tools and technologies for COVID-19 (diagnostics, vaccines and treatments) will be made available, accessible and affordable for patients in Europe and beyond. 

Read the full letter.

The fight against COVID-19: let’s make public investments count for people

This pandemic requires a robust and all-encompassing public health response from the European Union (EU) and national governments that, first and foremost, focuses on the implementation of effective epidemic control measures to slow down or halt the further spread of the virus in Europe and elsewhere. Simultaneously, there is a need for public financial and scientific support for the development of highly needed diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. ​An effective response requires that all these necessary medical tools are free of charge at the point of delivery, particularly for vulnerable populations.

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COVID-19 vaccine
This was a joint letter supported by 61 organisations.

Every project within Health Action International has had to adapt over the last few months. Learn about the ways in which each of our projects, and the organisation as a whole, have shifted and responded to the ongoing pandemic that continues to impact access to medicines for everyone, everywhere.

Responding to COVID-19