Western countries have blocked a proposal at the World Trade Organisation that would have boosted vaccine production and helped developing countries combat the Coronavirus pandemic. The proposal led by India and South Africa urged the WTO to temporarily waive off intellectual property rights for vaccines and Covid-19 related treatment.
The United States of America, the European Union, the United Kingdom, among others, objected to the proposal that would waive off provisions of the TRIPS Agreement, that governs international property rights, but only until widespread vaccination and immunity was achieved across the world.
South Africa expressed its concerns regarding the actual intent behind the decision of the developed world to block the proposal at the most recent meeting of the WTO’s Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.
“It is disappointing that despite the majority of the world being on the side of the TRIPS Waiver, it has been blocked by a few countries once again,” Katie Gallogly-Swan, policy coordinator at the UN Conference on Trade and Development, told Law360. “It is time to accept that we are not on track to vaccinate the world.”
Yuanqiong Hu, legal and policy adviser to Doctors Without Borders’ Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, told Law360 “what we need today are concrete actions, not more discussions and consultations. Some countries that oppose the monopoly waiver continue to propose voluntary measures, but these governments know that this will not be sufficient and will not result in the change we need to see.”
US Senator Bernie Sanders had urged the USA to support the waiver, “It is unconscionable that amid a global health crisis, huge multibillion dollar pharmaceutical companies continue to prioritize profits by protecting their monopolies and driving up prices rather than prioritizing the lives of people everywhere, including the Global South.”
Oxfam said in a statement, “This is a massive missed opportunity to speed up and scale up the production of lifesaving vaccines worldwide by waiving the intellectual property barriers that prevent more qualified manufacturers from joining the effort.”
It said, “Rich countries are vaccinating at a rate of one person per second yet are siding with a handful of pharmaceutical corporations in protecting their monopolies against the needs of the majority of developing countries who are struggling to administer a single dose.
“It is unforgivable that while people are literally fighting for breath, rich country governments continue to block what could be a vital breakthrough in ending this pandemic for everyone in rich and poor countries alike,” added Oxfam.