Nearly three quarters of Conservative voters want governments to drop opposition to patent-free Covid vaccines

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Nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of people who voted Conservative in the last election think governments should ensure vaccine science and know-how is shared with qualified manufacturers around the world, according to a poll published today. Respondents supported the proposal which would also see pharmaceutical giants who developed the vaccines given compensation for losing their exclusive property rights.

The YouGov poll for the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a global coalition of organisations including Amnesty International, Avaaz, Oxfam and UNAIDS, shows that Conservative voters’ views are in line with those of the general population, 74 per cent whom agree that governments should ensure that pharmaceutical companies do not have a monopoly on vaccines.

Over three quarters (78 per cent) of those in the UK also felt that the continued spread of COVID-19 elsewhere in the world poses a substantial risk to the national economy while nearly half (46 per cent) felt it was a large or significant threat to them personally.

Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s Health Policy Manager, said: “This should serve as wake-up call to the Government, with the majority of the British public, including their own supporters, wanting the removal of the artificial barriers in tackling the global supply crisis of COVID-19 vaccines.

“This includes suspending intellectual property rules, sharing technology, and ending monopoly control, so that everyone, everywhere has access to the vaccine as quickly as possible. Without this, the greater the threat that virus mutations will threaten us all.”

The poll comes ahead of a World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting next week, where over 100 developing countries are calling for a waiver of the intellectual property rights of pharmaceutical corporations so that more qualified manufacturers can come on board in ramping up the production of COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests to meet unprecedented need and redress stark inequality in access globally.

This week it was also confirmed that despite a very successful vaccine roll out to date, the UK government will import 10 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute in India, a vaccine manufacturer upon which developing countries and the World Health Organisation’s COVAX facility depend for COVID-19 vaccines. The move comes at a time when scarce global supply means the majority of developing countries have not been able to administer a single dose to protect even health workers or those most at risk of dying from the disease.

Anna Marriott said: “It is indefensible for the UK government to take vaccine doses away from poor countries while also blocking proposals at the WTO that would see the removal of barriers to ramping up production to meet global need.”

More than 10 times as many people agreed (54 per cent) that if pharmaceutical companies publicly release the formulas and technology it would be faster for everyone in the world to access the vaccine than those who felt it would take longer (5 per cent).

Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Economic and Social Justice, said: “We cannot put the interests of pharmaceutical companies ahead of ending the pandemic and recovering the global economy. It will cost lives and prolong the economic pain which is hitting the poorest hardest. Millions of lives and livelihoods are at stake.

“Governments and companies both have clear human rights obligations to do so much more to ensure everyone has a fair shot at a life-saving vaccine, and the British public clearly think this is the right thing to do too.”

The People’s Vaccine Alliance has previously warned that many poor countries will only be able to vaccinate one in ten people against COVID-19 this year unless urgent action is taken by governments and the pharmaceutical industry to make sure enough doses are produced.


Note to editors:

  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,788 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 23rd - 24th February 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
  • The People’s Vaccine Alliance is a coalition of organisations including Amnesty International, Free the Vaccine, Frontline AIDS, Global Justice Now, Oxfam, Public Citizen, SumOfUs, Tearfund, UNAIDS and the Yunus Centre.

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