American Senators Elizabeth Warren, Edward J Markey, Tammy Baldwin, Jeffrey A Merkley and Christopher S Murphy have written to vaccine makers Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, requesting information about their plans to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine manufacturing capacity across the globe.
The request came as India faces a catastrophic COVID-19 outbreak with over 350,000 new COVID-19 cases reported in a day.
“India’s COVID outbreak is a humanitarian crisis. I am leading a letter to Moderna, Pfizer and J&J to find out what steps they’re taking to expand global access to their vaccines to save lives and prevent variants from spreading around the world,” tweeted Senator Elizabeth Warren.
“COVID-19 has infected over 148 million people and killed over three million globally, with hundreds of thousands of new cases and thousands of deaths being reported daily. Though Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and other companies have developed safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, the uncontrolled spread of coronavirus poses significant risks to global vaccination efforts: as the virus proliferates, it evolves-increasing the risk of a variant developing that renders vaccinations ineffective,” the senators wrote in their letter.
India is one of the major producers of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines and has exported over 66 million doses globally since January 2021.
But with the onset of the recent surge of COVID-19 cases, India is struggling to vaccinate people quickly enough to bring the outbreak under control.
One of the several steps demanded the US senators for companies to expand global access to vaccines, including in India, is to share technology, such as vaccine recipes and manufacturing processes, with partner manufacturers to expedite production.
World Health Organisation has established mechanisms for technology transfer which include through its “COVID-19 Technology Access Pool” (C-TAP), seeking “the global community to voluntarily share the necessary expertise and intellectual property and its mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub, which seeks to “expand the capacity of low- and middle-income countries to produce COVID-19 vaccines and scale-up manufacturing” by facilitating the transfer of technology and intellectual property to those countries.
Experts have also called on the US to support the temporary waiver of some Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) rules proposed by India and South Africa at the World Trade Organization (WTO), which would temporarily lift certain intellectual property barriers and allow countries to manufacture COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines locally.
The Senators have asked several questions about the companies’ plans to expand global vaccine access. They have requested a response by 11 May 2021.