PSAC joins international unions in fighting for vaccine access

The Public Service Alliance of Canada is joining Public Services International, Doctors Without Borders, the Trade Justice Network and other unions to call for the federal government to help ensure COVID-19 vaccines are widely available by supporting a waiver of international property rights on the vaccines. 

PSAC President Chris Aylward recently sent a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and other government ministers who share responsibility for global issues and for health and safety of Canadians. The letter asks the Trudeau government to support the “Waiver From Certain Provisions Of The TRIPS Agreement For The Prevention, Containment And Treatment Of COVID-19”. 

TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) is a WTO agreement that protects intellectual property rights and is an example of one of the many international trade agreements that protect corporate profits instead of citizens. The waiver will make it possible for COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostic kits and other related medical technologies to be purchased at prices these countries can afford. It is supported by the World Health OrganizationUN Human Rights ExpertsUNITAID and UNAIDS and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), and over 100 of the world’s nations. 

The world’s pharmaceutical industry already enjoys some of the largest profit margins on earth, even surpassing the oil and gas industry and equalling those made by big banks, according to Doctors Without Borders. Although big pharma argues that they need monopolies to fund research and development, their arguments have been shown to be wildly exaggerated.  Studies have demonstrated that pharmaceutical companies spend more of their profits on marketing, repurchasing shares, handing out dividendsand heaping lavish pay packages on company executives than on research and development. 

The TRIPS agreement is making it impossible for many poorer developing countries to vaccinate their citizens. As the PSAC letter points out, unless the waiver is allowed, it is unlikely that there will be enough doses for the world’s population until the end of 2024. Yet the richest nations of the world, including Canada, continue to oppose the waiver. 

Chris Aylward reminded the Prime Minister and his ministers that unless herd immunity is achieved for people everywhere, more variants will develop that challenge existing levels of immunity, and more people will die of COVID-19.

PSAC calls on the Canadian government to reverse its untenable position and support the waiver at the next TRIPS council meeting. Join us by signing the petition to the Government of Canada.


February 24, 2021