The Workers Party of Belgium (PTB/PVDA) has slammed the apathy shown by the country’s coalition government over the demand for waiving patents on COVID-19 vaccines. On Thursday, May 6, the major political parties in the coalition government, the Socialist Party(PS), Reformist Movement (MR), Ecolo etc., refused to support the proposal by PTB MP Sofie Merckx in the Belgian federal parliament calling for the waiving of patents. This is the second proposal from the PTB within the last two weeks towards the same end. In February, activists from the PTB and the Médecine pour le Peuple (MPLP) demonstrated outside the office of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer in Brussels with a similar demand.
The call to lift the patents on COVID-19 vaccines has intensified following the US announcement of backing a limited patent waiver for the vaccines. On Wednesday, PTB issued a statement calling on Belgium and the European Union to follow this example. The PTB is already a signatory to a European citizens’ initiative which demands the European Commission take measures to make vaccines and anti-pandemic treatment a global public good, freely accessible to all.
Sofie Merck stated that American decision “is a huge victory for popular mobilization, in the United States and in the world. The decision of the American government is important. It is essential to be able to meet the demand for vaccines, not only at home, but also in the rest of the world.”
Marc Botenga, Member of the European Parliament (MEP), from the PTB said that Washington’s announcement on Wednesday is a real disavowal of the European Commission which remains silent in the face of global health needs. “By the waiving of patents, the vaccine will be more quickly accessible everywhere in the world. The health of the people must come before the profits of Big Pharma,” he added.
Earlier, PTB has criticized Pfizer Inc. for trying to increase its profit margin by not ensuring the delivery of the promised quantity of COVID-19 vaccines after it was found that medics could draw six doses of vaccine per bottle instead of the expected five doses.