20+ German NGOs call on BioNTech, CureVac to waive patents for COVID-19 vaccines

In a joint letter, a German alliance of more than 20 NGOs has called on the German pharmaceutical companies BioNTech and CureVac to make the COVID-19 vaccine they developed available globally in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices.

The NGO alliance urged the companies to temporarily waive the patents to make the knowledge and technologies available to other companies during the pandemic – preferably via the World Health Organization's (WHO) COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-Tap). The companies should provide transparency regarding clinical test data and manufacturing costs, the alliance posited, and share portions of the COVID-19 vaccine doses they produce with low- and middle-income countries to ensure equitable access and fair distribution globally.

Given that both companies had received federal funding of several hundred million euros for COVID-19 vaccine development, the companies are now responsible for providing people worldwide access to the vaccines, the NGOs argued in the letter, and thus the companies should explain what specific measures they are planning to take regarding the aspects of transparency, affordability, licensing, technology transfer, and fair access to meet this obligation.

Through the €750 million (US$913 million) COVID-19 vaccine development program of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, CureVac and BioNTech had received €230 million (US$280 million) and €375 million (US$456 million), respectively, in 2020. The vaccine developed by BioNTech and its US partner company Pfizer is already being used in numerous countries, including Germany, while the CureVac vaccine is not approved yet.

Press release – Ärzte ohne Grenzen (letter to CureVac, in German)

Press release – Ärzte ohne Grenzen (letter to BioNTech, in German)

News article – Tagesschau (in German)