On 12th of July, the European Parliament approved the Report on Lessons Learned from the Covid-19 Pandemic and Recommendations for the Future recommending to the Commission and to the Member States the creation of a European public Research & Development infrastructure and delivery organisation for medicines and vaccines. To highlight this achievement, which is also the result of ForumDD’s work, and to reiterate the importance of continuing to sign the petition in support of the proposal, we launched an updated version of the documentary “Health as Common Good”.
On 12th of July 2023, the European Parliament took a first big step in defending the health of all of us: it approved the Report on Lessons Learned from the Covid-19 Pandemic and Recommendations for the Future recommending to the Commission and to the Member States the creation of a European public Research & Development infrastructure and delivery organisation for medicines and vaccines. Although the text did not solve all the issues relating to intellectual property rights, the Forum on Inequality and Diversity welcomed the outcome of the vote as, exactly one month earlier, it had launched the “Health as Common Good” campaign in support of this proposal, writing a letter to all Italian MEPs asking them to commit themselves to supporting it.
Citizens interested in the issue had also been urged to write to their representatives in Europe and sign the petition launched by ForumDD in September 2022 in support of the same proposal, which had already been signed by leading scientists, such as Nobel Prize in Physics Giorgio Parisi, Nobel Prize in Economics Amartya Sen, and Nobel Prize in Physics Barry Barish.
To highlight this important achievement, which is also the result of ForumDD’s work, and to reiterate the importance of continuing to sign the petition in order to put pressure on the Commission and the Member States to implement what is now an EU Parliament recommendation, the Forum on Inequality and Diversity has published an updated version of the documentary launched at the start of the campaign.
For ForumDD, the documentary represents the last stretch of a long journey. The creation of a European infrastructure capable of counterbalancing large private technology monopolies in a sector such as health is among the “15 proposals for social justice” put forward in 2019. The proposal was also presented on 28th of September 2022 at the Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA) by Massimo Florio, a professor at the University of Milan and a member of the ForumDD assembly. Florio is also the author, together with Simona Gamba (University of Milan) and Chiara Pancotti (CSIL), of an independent study prepared at the request of the European Parliament, in the context of the work of the Special Committee on the COVID-19 pandemic that produced the Report, which was presented on 24th of March 2023.
With reference to the 9 investigated vaccines, it was estimated that private firms made “at risk” investments of 5 billion Euros in Research&Development and 11 billion Euros in pre-production investment, a total of 16 billion Euros. At the same time, those firms received from the EU and the US, 9 billion Euros in subsidies for Research&Development (mostly from the US) and 21 billion Euros (shared by US and EU) in advance purchase agreements, i.e. before vaccine evaluation and authorization. A grand total of 30 billion Euros. This means that most of the financial risk has been assumed by the public sector and thus by all of us.
Taking on greater financial risk than private firms, however, has not led to the public sector becoming co-owner of the knowledge that was produced. States had no decisional power regarding either vaccine prices or vaccine distribution. This has meant not allowing third parties to produce vaccines to enable them to act anywhere and in the shortest possible time to stem the pandemic and financing research with taxpayers’ money, and find ourselves paying again for goods and services that large private firms produce because of it. For example, it is estimated that the production cost for a dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine is between one and two dollars. However, they are sold for about twenty dollars each, and the two firms have informed their investors that they want to quintuple the price to a hundred dollars a dose.
In order to prevent this from happening again and to make the European public infrastructure a reality, the mobilization to spread and get people to sign the petition will continue in the coming months. In the run-up to next year’s European elections, the Forum on Inequality and Diversity hopes that the European public infrastructure will become a central point of any agenda that calls for a just Europe and for maximum attention to the health of European citizens.