You’ve probably heard that Canada has committed more than a billion dollars to develop COVID-19 vaccines, medicines, and diagnostic tests that we all need. What you’ve not heard is whether a successful Canadian vaccine candidate will be accessible or affordable to those who need it most.
That’s because right now, most public funding for medical research and development (R&D) comes with no strings attached – meaning that even when public funds are used to discover or develop lifesaving medicines or vaccines, there are no requirements to make them affordable for people who need them, including Canadians.
In fact, these publicly funded vaccines, medicines and health technologies are often sold to private companies, who get to decide who receives access to them — and at what price.
This is unacceptable.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is calling on Canada’s Minister of Health, Patty Hajdu, to make one simple policy change: Impose safeguards requiring that any medicines, vaccines or other health innovations discovered or developed with Canadian public funds be made affordable, accessible and available for everyone that needs them – free of patents, monopolies and high prices.
Why? The global medical R&D system that MSF and the rest of the world depends on for new and essential lifesaving medicines – whether for previously unknown viruses like COVID-19 or for neglected diseases that overwhelmingly impact people in low-income countries – is currently built around private profits rather than public health.
This must change. Medicines should not be a luxury available only to those who can afford it – especially when they are developed using public funds.
Canada can make this change right now. Please take a moment to sign our petition calling on the Canadian government to make sure that the medicines, vaccines, and other health technologies developed through the medical R&D we pay for will be affordable and accessible to the patients and health systems who need them most.
Our goal is to collect 30,000 signatures on this petition, and to deliver them to the office of Patty Hajdu, Canada’s federal health minister, before the next sitting of Parliament begins. Please share with your networks, and join us in demanding that public funding for medical R&D in Canada – including for COVID-19 vaccines and other medicines – be safeguarded for public health.
By taking action now, we can drastically improve our abilities to access the medicines we need most, both here in Canada and around the world.
Humanitarian Affairs Advisor
Doctors Without Borders Canada