In order to end this pandemic, everyone must play their part, and that includes the private sector. Their leadership, innovation, skills, knowledge, and financial muscle are desperately needed. This crisis has undoubtedly taken a heavy toll on businesses, but the quickest way to get back on track is to end the pandemic.
Companies can play a critical role in getting vaccines and other treatments to the people globally who need them. Whether through investing in the ACT-Accelerator initiative, committing to sharing vital knowledge and skills, or advancing multilateral cooperation, the world’s leading businesses — including pharmaceutical companies — can help end the pandemic and get economies back on track.
Business as usual is not an option during COVID-19: we need to rip up the rule book. That’s why pharmaceutical companies need to demonstrate an unprecedented level of knowledge and IP sharing, transparency, and accountability. The whole world is counting on it.
Here’s what we need to see from pharmaceutical companies
Recent news of promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates from Pfizer/BioNtech, Moderna, and Oxford/AstraZeneca are significant steps toward ending this pandemic. But the pandemic doesn’t end with a vaccine — it ends when everyone has access to vaccines.
In order to make that happen, here are five things pharmaceutical companies must do.
1. Support the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A)
The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) is a unique global collaboration that is positioned to deliver a coordinated global response to COVID-19 at scale and at speed. The private sector must provide financial support and collaborate with ACT-A to advance its mission. This includes providing vaccine doses for low-income countries and signing up for the COVAX Advance Market Commitment mechanism.
2. Expand access to knowledge, intellectual property, and data linked to COVID-19 tools
Expanding access to intellectual property and accelerating technology transfers are key to maximizing production capacity, and ensuring that vaccines and treatments are produced as widely as possible. While intellectual property can be a key driver of innovation, it can be a deadly barrier to expanding access to medicine. This was seen during the AIDS pandemic, when over 7 million deaths might have been avoided in sub-Saharan Africa with earlier production of generic ARV treatment.
Pharmaceutical companies should join the countries, NGOs, and intergovernmental organizations that have already signed on to the WHO’s Solidarity Call to Action, which calls on stakeholders to pool knowledge, intellectual property, and data.
3. Commit to at-cost or nonprofit pricing
Pharmaceutical companies should disclose their access policies and commit to nonprofit pricing for all COVID-19 vaccines so that low-income countries can access the vaccine. Pricing at-cost throughout the full distribution of the vaccine would increase access for the poorest countries and people by providing vaccines and treatments at the lowest sustainable cost. It would also increase the possibility of the vaccine being delivered free at the point of care.
4. Ensure bilateral deals are transparent, published, and aligned with WHO allocation guidelines
Companies receiving public COVID-19 funds must publish their costing models — including production costs and break downs of how they arrived at vaccine prices — to guard against price gouging. Making this information public will allow citizens and countries to benefit from the same products at the same costs and will therefore prevent countries getting a better deal because they have better negotiation capacities or compensations to offer.
Companies should also align vaccine purchase volumes with the WHO’s global allocation guidelines to prevent countries from monopolising the initial supply of vaccines and ensure that initial supplies of vaccines reach the people who need them most.
5. Show multilateral leadership and use political capital to advance equity
Pharmaceutical companies should push their peers to improve equity as well. Each pharmaceutical company will have an impact on whether or not we reach an equitable outcome. In order for the COVID-19 tools to first benefit those who need it most, regardless of where they live, all pharmaceutical companies need to abide by the rules.
Tell pharmaceutical companies to step up
Everyone must do their part to tackle this pandemic — whether it’s health workers on the frontline, scientists developing the medical tools to beat the virus, governments stepping up and providing leadership, or people following the rules designed to slow the spread.