Alix Bommelaer, MSF medical doctor, and Cristiana Castro, MSF nurse, are registering a patient from an emergency shelters for him to get a Covid-19 vaccination. On 8th of June 2021, Médecins © Laure Playoust / Hans Lucas

MSF to President Biden: Help free the COVID-19 vaccine

The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) delivered a petition to the White House today, demanding that the Biden Administration take immediate action to increase global access to COVID-19 vaccines. While the US is expected to have 500 million excess doses by the end of the year, fewer than six percent of people in low-income countries have received even a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine—leaving millions at risk.

“We’re here to demand that the Biden Administration do more to free the vaccine and help end this pandemic for everyone, everywhere,” said Avril Benoît, executive director of MSF-USA. “In the United States, we are talking about a return to normalcy while most of the world hasn’t even received a single dose. There’s no urgency or unified plan of action from the Administration to ensure that these lifesaving vaccines reach everyone who needs them.”

The petition delivery to the White House was part of a larger public action in Lafayette Square, where MSF staff and supporters built a visual display to symbolize vaccines trapped in chains, with several people representing pharmaceutical corporations Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech and the World Trade Organization (WTO) “guarding” the vaccines.

MSF is calling on the Biden Administration to take these steps immediately to ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to COVID-19 vaccines:

  • Make public and concrete commitments to redistribute excess COVID-19 vaccine doses globally.
  • Demand Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna—which received significant US taxpayer funding to develop COVID-19 mRNA vaccines—share the vaccine technology with the World Health Organization technology transfer hub in South Africa. This will allow more manufacturers to produce vaccines and boost the global supply.
  • Remain committed to and urge all countries to support the TRIPS waiver proposal at the WTO to waive intellectual property restrictions on all COVID-19 products during the pandemic.

The forecasted 2021 sales revenues of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are $26 billion and $18 billion, respectively.

Considering the estimated $2.5 billion of US public money that has gone into the development of mRNA vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech have a public obligation to facilitate increased vaccine production and supply where the need for doses and manufacturing capacity is greatest. If these companies refuse, the US government should use the Defense Production Act to force them to share vaccine technology and know-how, said MSF.

“There was an all-hands-on-deck approach to developing these vaccines,” Benoît said. “The Biden Administration needs to harness that same urgency to ensure that these vaccines are rolled out everywhere as soon as possible. That means taking bold action to share US vaccine doses, and it means putting pressure on pharmaceutical corporations so that global COVID-19 access is finally a reality.”