British lawmakers have insisted that the government make public all chats with pharmaceutical companies to have a clearer idea if any private lobbying took place impacting its opposition to an intellectual property (IP) waiver for COVID-19 jabs for certain WTO companies.
They signed a statement calling for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, ministers, and senior civil servants to publish the whole bulk of text, including messenger and email exchanges with big pharma companies and their lobbyists. The statement was also signed by vaccine equity and patient advocacy entities, including Global Justice Now, Just Treatment, StopAIDS, Students for Global Health, and a number of others.
"The UK's opposition to an intellectual property waiver on COVID-19 vaccines is utterly indefensible", said Heidi Chow, senior policy and campaigns manager at Global Justice Now, which set up the joint statement.
A government spokesperson said the authorities put transparency to the fore, but would expect stakeholders to be entitled to a certain degree of confidentiality in their exchanges with partners.
"We are committed to exploring ways in which we can improve equitable access further and believe this should be done through the existing Intellectual Property framework", added the spokesperson.
The US, as well as a range of other countries, the UK among them, have stymied negotiations at the WTO vis-a-vis a proposal filed by India and South Africa, which have racked up the support of 100 WTO member states.
The proposal would enable developing countries to manufacture vaccines, after they obtain a temporary waiver of big pharma's patent rights – something US lawmakers and nonprofit organisations called the Biden administration to greenlight in the run-up to the next WTO meet-up on 5 May.
The US, Germany, and the UK are the top three donors to COVAX, aka COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, which is a global initiative aiming to give equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, under the auspices of the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the World Health Organisation.