Spanish parties divided on vaccine patents release

by Lorraine Williamson
Vaccine patents - a benefit or not?
del canto chambers 2

 

MADRID – More than a year after the outbreak of the pandemic, more and more voices, including in the Spanish Congress of Deputies, are calling for pharmaceutical companies to share their vaccine patents. 

However, in a hypothetical vote in Congress, the absolute majority would vote against. United Podemos, Más País, Equo, ERC, EH Bildu and PNV are in favour of liberalising pharmaceutical licensing. Meanwhile VOX, PP and PSOE do not agree with reforming the patent system. Furthermore, they have a majority in the Spanish Congress. 

What does Brussels think about vaccine patents? 

Brussels is against patent liberalisation because it will ‘not solve’ the current problem of access to patents.  It prefers to promote cooperation between pharmaceutical companies to increase production capacity worldwide.  

Podemos sees opportunities 

Unidas Podemos points out there are ways, both within the European Union and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), to release patents in emergency situations such as this. The EU is not considering this possibility. However, the US is, because vaccine development research is a public patent of the US government,’ sources within Podemos stated. 

Moreover, Unidas Podemos stressed, vaccine research is ‘largely funded by public money’. The pharmaceutical industry ‘has not run any risk’. Therefore, public investment should serve the public good. Vaccines are not a consumer good but a public service that saves lives. The main goal is not the profit of the pharmaceutical industry’. 

Vaccine patents should not be an obstacle 

Más País is also in favour of temporarily releasing the licences. It believes that in the case of a health emergency, patents should not hinder the vaccination process. According to the party, ‘it is necessary for the government to take this position so that more companies and factories can produce vaccines and there is more supply and vaccination’. Equo, the green party, shares this view.  

Both parties claim there are many countries and organisations that want to support this change of policy. More than 200 members of the European Parliament have demanded ‘the EU should, among other things, defend the rights of individuals against pharmaceutical companies and allow the temporary release of aspects and obligations of intellectual property’.  

nederlandse orthopeed

Basque Country, Catalonia and Navarre 

Although in favour of intellectual property and the rights resulting from scientific research, the Catalan left-wing ERC argues exceptional times call for exceptional measures. And that ‘we can only face this global pandemic through solidarity and brotherhood between sectors, territories and citizens’. 

The Catalan formation JxCat says yes to everything that implies an acceleration in the pace of vaccination. 

The Basque parties EH Bildu and PNV are in favour of liberalising patents. In Brussels, the Basque MEP Izaskun Bilbao has already expressed his opinion on the matter.  

The Navarra nationalist party, UPN, believes that the public use of a patent developed with public money should be negotiated. For the Covid-19 vaccine, ‘a formula to pay the pharmaceutical company must be found’ with liberalisation of the patent.   

Opponents 

The socialist PSOE refers to the words of Health Minister Carolina Darias. She stressed the Spanish government supports the position of the European Commission and the system of contracts for the purchase of vaccines against Covid-19. ‘Spain is not in favour of reforming the vaccine patents system’ said Darias. 

The far-right Vox is one of the strongest opponents of vaccine liberalisation. The conservative Partido Popular is also opposed. Albeit slightly more moderately, and believes this is not the time to have the debate on vaccine liberalisation. Agreements made with pharmaceutical companies must be respected to enable smooth and transparent distribution between the different countries.

Public-private partnership offers opportunities 

Ciudadanos sees more in public-private partnerships as a strategy for the progress of society. They believe the pandemic has shown cooperation between the public sector and private companies is ‘more necessary than ever’. Thanks to this, we now have several vaccines that save millions of lives around the world. According to Ciudadanos, the pharmaceutical industry and the public sector can reach agreements that streamline the vaccination process worldwide. Vaccines must also reach the most vulnerable countries. 

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