Skip to main content

Common Dreams. Journalism funded by people, not corporations.

There has never been—and never will be—an advertisement on our site except for this one: without readers like you supporting our work, we wouldn't exist.

No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news and opinion 365 days a year that is freely available to all and funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Our mission is clear. Our model is simple. If you can, please support our Fall Campaign today.

Support Our Work -- No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. Please support our Fall Campaign today.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks during a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on Capitol Hill on January 27, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks during a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on Capitol Hill on January 27, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images)

'We Need a People's Vaccine, Not a Profit Vaccine': Sanders Urges Biden to Support Push to Suspend Pharma Patents

"Ending this pandemic requires collaboration, solidarity, and empathy. It requires a very different mindset—a mindset that puts people over profits at every turn."

Jake Johnson

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Wednesday urged President Joe Biden to support an India and South Africa-led effort at the World Trade Organization to temporarily suspend coronavirus vaccine-related intellectual property rights in order to facilitate speedy global production and distribution of the life-saving shots—a proposal backed by nearly 70% of U.S. adults and more than 100 nations worldwide.

"It is unconscionable that amid a global health crisis, huge multibillion dollar pharmaceutical companies continue to prioritize profits by protecting their monopolies and driving up prices rather than prioritizing the lives of people everywhere, including in the Global South," Sanders said in a video released Wednesday as part of a global virtual "Rally for a People's Vaccine."

"Our government has invested enormous sums of taxpayer dollars into the production of these technologies. All people should benefit, not just a few already obscenely wealthy CEOs and shareholders in the wealthiest country on Earth."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders

In order to ramp up coronavirus vaccine production to meet global need and distribute doses "as quickly as humanly possible," Sanders said "the United States should play a major role in promoting global cooperation and innovation." At present, the U.S.—along with other wealthy nations where major pharmaceutical companies are based—is blocking India and South Africa's push for a patent waiver, which industry lobbying groups are mobilizing to crush.

"Our government has invested enormous sums of taxpayer dollars into the production of these technologies. All people should benefit, not just a few already obscenely wealthy CEOs and shareholders in the wealthiest country on Earth," said the Vermont senator. "We need a People's Vaccine, not a Profit Vaccine."

Less than a week after the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), a leading industry lobbying organization, called on Biden to uphold U.S. opposition to the patent-waiver proposal, Sanders said Wednesday that he is sending a letter to the president demanding his support for the plan "so that we can rapidly expand supplies of vaccines" without the constraints imposed by pharma monopolies.

"Ending this pandemic requires collaboration, solidarity, and empathy. It requires a very different mindset—a mindset that puts people over profits at every turn," Sanders said. "The pharmaceutical companies must not block this effort, and I join you in your request to temporarily waive WTO intellectual property protections on Covid-19 medical technologies during the pandemic."

Watch:

Sanders' remarks came ahead of a global "Free the Vaccine" day of action Thursday wherein medical professionals, scientists, and progressive activists are planning to rally at Moderna headquarters in Massachusetts, PhRMA headquarters in Washington, D.C., Pfizer headquarters in New York City, and other locations to pressure Biden to support the proposed intellectual property waiver. A WTO council is meeting to discuss the proposal this week.

Without ambitious action to free vaccine recipes from the pharmaceutical industry's stranglehold, activists and experts have warned, most poor nations will not achieve sufficient inoculation against the deadly virus until as late as 2024 as rich countries continue to hoard much of the existing supply.

According to a new analysis by the International Rescue Committee, excess vaccine doses bought up by the U.S., United Kingdom, and European Union could inoculate every adult in Yemen, Ethiopia, and other nations facing horrific humanitarian crises.

"Around the world, two and a half million lives have already been lost due to this brutal disease and many countries are battling without adequate medical care and no vaccines," Gabriela Bucher, executive director of Oxfam International, said in a statement Wednesday. "By allowing a small group of pharmaceutical companies to decide who lives and who dies, rich nations are prolonging this unprecedented global health emergency and putting countless more lives on the line."

"At this crucial time," said Bucher, "developing countries need support—not opposition."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Watch: Bernie Sanders Argues 'We Must End the Greed of Big Pharma'

The live address comes as the Senate Budget Committee chair continues to push for including Medicare expansion and drug pricing reforms in the Build Back Better package.

Common Dreams staff ·


Reconciliation Framework 'Not Enough' to Push Through Infrastructure Bill, Progressives Warn

"We need to have a vote ready for the Build Back Better plan, not a framework," insisted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. "We want to have both of these votes together."

Brett Wilkins ·


McDonald's Workers Join 'Striketober' and Walk Out Over Sexual Harassment

One striker participated because "McDonald's still refuses to take responsibility for the countless women and teenagers who face harassment on the job at its stores across the globe."

Jessica Corbett ·


Breaking: FDA Panel Recommends Pfizer Covid-19 Vaccine for Kids 5 to 11

With just one abstention, the advisory panel voted 17-0 to approve the vaccine for younger children which scientific review has deemed both safe and effective against the deadly virus.

Common Dreams staff ·


Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo