“A TANTALISING GLIMPSE OF THE POSSIBLE” Debate on IP waiver raises prospect of accelerating the end of COVID-19 pandemic
10 December – Earlier today, countries from across the globe took part in a debate at the World Trade Organisation on whether certain IP protections known as Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) could be temporarily waived in relation to COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments.
This waiver would allow countries to individually waive COVID-19 related IP rights, allowing more producers to take advantage of medical breakthroughs to produce supplies of the potentially life-saving vaccines and treatments in regions that may otherwise struggle to access them. This would not be the first time the WTO has loosened Intellectual Property rules to save lives, it agreed to more flexibility in 2001 to allow producers in Africa and Asia to develop generic antiretroviral drugs to help reduce the devastating impact of HIV/Aids.
The motion, which is now supported by 100 countries and jointly co-sponsored by India, South Africa, Kenya, Eswatini, Pakistan and Mozambique, will be voted on later this month and will require the support of 123 countries to come into effect.
Speaking after the debate, Edwin Ikhouria, Africa Director at the ONE Campaign, said: “This debate provided a tantalizing glimpse of the possible. The whole world is united in wanting to end this pandemic as quickly as possible – but until we can get the tools to beat the virus to every corner of the planet, it will continue to threaten people everywhere.
“The world’s leading pharmaceutical companies deserve enormous credit for the speed that they have developed effective vaccines. It’s a victory for science and innovation – but we now need a victory for humanity by ensuring that the whole world benefits from this breakthrough.
“A waiver on intellectual property rights could dramatically increase the speed at which we get these vaccines and treatments where they’re needed. The faster we do that, the faster we can protect people’s lives and livelihoods and end this pandemic for good.”