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Universal price cap

It should no longer be a function of economics when human survival is at stake.

But since nothing comes free nowadays, we can concede to a price ceiling on life-saving vaccines.

If a vaccine against the 2019 coronavirus disease pandemic passes final testing or trials and would soon be in th4 pipeline,it should at least be reasonably priced to ensure their affordability and accessibility to all.

The very discerning lady lawmaker is right.

Sen. Imee Marcos said world leaders must agree on a global price ceiling, even a waiver on patents for vaccines, if less developed countries are to gain greater access to immunization against Covid-19.

Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs, urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to use its clout to start a new way of doing business in the manufacture, patenting, pricing, and distribution of vaccines for Covid-19 and future pandemics.

She said the ASEAN gained more influence as a trade bloc after its 10 member nations signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement last week with five non-member states including Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.

“The RCEP represents about a third of the world’s population and global GDP,” she xplained.

“We need a global accord on Covid-19 vaccines, a standard ceiling on vaccine prices, diversified manufacturing and supply in all world regions,” the lawmaker said.

“The ASEAN can initiate a new normal for patents and copyrights, a world order of fairness, compassion and commitment to the common good,” she added.

The universal access to the Covid-19 vaccine was the centerpiece of President Duterte’s intervention speech at the 2020 APEC Economic Leader’s Meeting on Friday, citing its role in the region’s full recovery following the pandemic.

Duterte stressed the need to strengthen partnerships and make the vaccines a global public good, noting that comprehensive recovery means ensuring that “no one is left behind.”

“Several modalities are available. Aside from bilateral and multilateral cooperation, tripartite arrangements can be made between the government, private sector, and multilateral financial institutions,” he said.

“There is no other way. Let us resolve to act decisively on universal vaccine access and maximize these mechanisms,” he said, noting that hat information is key to effective response and mitigation efforts.

As the G20 met this weekend to address the Covid-19 pandemic, Marcos said the ASEAN must hold the group comprising the European Union and 19 member-states to its official statement in March to “spare no effort, both individually and collectively, to protect lives and safeguard people’s jobs and incomes”.

She added that a World Trade Organization agreement known as TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) can be invoked to moderate vaccine patents during a global public health emergency.

“Less developed countries remain at the mercy of global pharmaceutical firms that hold the patents and dictate the prices of vaccines,” she said.

“Pharmaceutical firms must not forget the priceless role of human participation in vaccine trials. No vaccine could be created without it, so it’s about time they give back to the people of the world,” Marcos added.

At least five pharmaceutical firms are racing to complete four-phase trials for a Covid-19 vaccine, with American firm Pfizer leading the pack which includes another US firm, Moderna, the UK-based Oxford/Astra-Zeneca, China’s Sinovac Biotech, and Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute.

“Pfizer already made a killing on Viagra. Let’s hope the race to come up with a vaccine is guided mainly by the concern to save as many lives rather than to make as much profit as possible,” she said.