On 14 April the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will meet in Geneva to discuss the removal or suspension of patents, which the big pharmaceutical transnationals controlled at present and are restricting the access of billions of people to vaccines against Covid-19, in particular in the poorest countries.
The WTO summit results from the huge international pressure for patent deregulation that has been building around the world. A vast global movement involving governments, non-governmental organisations and various personalities has been building for at least 6 months.
The International Workers’ Unity-Fourth International (IWU-FI) has no expectations of what the WTO will decide. It is a body representing the capitalist-imperialist system, which handles the social and health debacle we are living through. The WTO has been supporting patents and multinational pharmaceutical companies for a long time.
For all these reasons we are calling for an international day of condemnation and demands on 14 April, through social networks and wherever possible, in person, demanding vaccines for all and the abolition or suspension of patents. Only with a big protest and a worldwide mobilisation of workers, especially health workers, and the popular sectors, will it be possible to change this course.
While the pandemic continues to worsen in the world with new strains and more infections, there is a shortage of vaccines and inequality in their distribution. As of March, 489 million doses had been administered worldwide, at a ratio of 6.27 per 100 inhabitants.
What some have called a “vaccine apartheid” is taking place, exemplified by the unequal distribution of vaccines between rich, imperialist countries and the poorest, where most of the world’s population lives.
To break this straitjacket, imposed by the rules of global capitalism, it is necessary to free the patents that are currently controlled by big pharmaceuticals, making the knowledge and techniques that are currently in the hands of the big transnationals available to all scientists and laboratories in the world. This would allow the mass production of vaccines, thus putting an end to the apartheid that today restricts access for the poorest countries.
India and South Africa, with the support of 99 countries, submitted an emergency proposal to the World Trade Organisation to suspend patents on Covid-19-related vaccines and treatments while the pandemic persists. However, the governments of these countries are limiting themselves to formal requests to international bodies, but are not calling for mobilisation. Part of the call is to demand that these governments speak out and call for mobilisation in each country.
There are other important patent freedom initiatives led by Médecins Sans Frontières, Oxfam, and most recently the call for a Peoples Vaccine led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus and supported by actors George Clooney and Forest Whitaker, actress Sharon Stone and musician Peter Gabriel, among others, and over 1.5 million people around the world who have signed the document so far.
The IWU-FI is part of this international movement, so we also call for an international day on 14 April.
For this reason, we appeal to all popular, trade union, youth and political organisations that agree with this demand, to coordinate united actions this 14 April in our countries, demanding that the patents on Covid-19 vaccines be eliminated, to put all laboratories and scientific centres in the world into full production capacity. So that there is a free and free distribution of vaccines to all the peoples of the world.
We call for the development of a day with face-to-face actions where possible, and through social networks with short videos, photos with posters that read: #No to patents, Vaccines for All, tweets, and other initiatives.
International Workers’ Unity – Fourth International (IWU-FI)
11 April 2021