TRIPS IP Waiver – WTO Action
Wall Street Journal
Countries Try to Win Support for Deal to Waive Patent Protections on Covid-19 Vaccines
Compromise reached by U.S., EU, South Africa and India needs approval from World Trade Organization membership
By Saeed Shah
March 17, 2022
After 18 months of fierce debate, a group of countries, including the U.S., has reached an agreement to waive patent protections on Covid-19 vaccines. Now they are racing to get other countries to support the deal at the World Trade Organization, officials involved in the discussions said.
The U.S. and the European Union have reached a compromise with South Africa and India that would allow developing countries to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines without the permission of the holder of the intellectual-property rights. It also would set a precedent for future pandemics…
…The U.K. and Switzerland, which have major pharmaceutical industries and opposed the waiver, weren’t part of the talks on the agreement. They complained of a lack of transparency around negotiations over the deal in a WTO meeting of all members on March 9, trade officials said…
…“The difficult and protracted process has resulted in a compromise outcome,” said the U.S. Trade Representative. “While no agreement on text has been reached and we are in the process of consulting on the outcome, the U.S. will continue to engage with WTO Members as part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s comprehensive effort to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible.”…
Director-General Okonjo-Iweala hails breakthrough on TRIPS COVID-19 solution
16 March 2022
World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala today warmly welcomed the breakthrough among four WTO Members on a waiver of the Trade Related Intellectual Property agreement for the production of vaccines against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a major step forward and this compromise is the result of many long and difficult hours of negotiations. But we are not there yet. We have more work to do to ensure that we have the support of the entire WTO Membership,” the Director-General said.
While the agreement between the European Union, India, South Africa and the United States is an essential element to any final deal, she cautioned that not all the details of the compromise have been ironed out and that internal domestic consultations within the four members are still ongoing. Moreover, she stressed that work must commence immediately to broaden the discussions to include all 164 members of the WTO.
“In the WTO we decide by consensus, and this has not yet been achieved. My team and I have been working hard for the past three months and we are ready to roll up our sleeves again to work together with the TRIPS Council Chair Ambassador Lansana Gberie (Sierra Leone) to bring about a full agreement as quickly as possible. We are grateful to the four Members for the difficult work they have undertaken so far,” said Dr. Okonjo-Iweala.
IFPMA statement on TRIPS discussion document
16 March 2022 [Text bolding from original]
Following reports on the status of informal discussions led by the WTO Secretariat with the European Union (EU), India, South Africa, and the USA, on 16 March 2022, biopharmaceutical companies reaffirm their position that weakening patents now when it is widely acknowledged that there are no longer supply constraints of COVID-19 vaccines, sends the wrong signal.
2022 kicked off with COVID-19 vaccine production from both developing and developed country manufacturers reaching 12 billion within a year of the first vaccine being authorized. Today industry is able to produce over a billion vaccine each month. COVAX is now fully meeting its commitments. Since the beginning of 2022, there has been broad consensus that the challenge now is how to get the vaccines into the arms of people who need them, rather than vaccine supply. When the IP TRIPS Waiver was first proposed in 2020, it was to the wrong solution to the problem of scaling up manufacturing of potential COVID-19 vaccines which at the time had not yet even been authorized. Now the problem of supply has been addressed thanks to unprecedented collaboration involving companies from industrialized and developing countries, the TRIPS Waiver is not only the wrong solution, it is also an outdated proposal, that has been overtaken by events.
Weakening intellectual property (IP) will do nothing to help the scaling up of vaccine manufacturing. There is a broad consensus among experts that waiving patents would not add a single additional vaccine dose, because technology transfer goes far beyond the patent, is built on trust, know-how sharing and voluntary licensing. This is exactly what manufacturers have done on an unprecedented scale. As of now, there are 371 collaborations on vaccines manufacturing and 155 for therapeutics and, in addition, the multiple announcements of partnerships to improve geographical diversity of vaccine production, are proof in themselves that the proposed IP TRIPS waiver is unnecessary and irrelevant, at worst sends the wrong signal at the wrong time.
The IP TRIPS Waiver proposals should be recognized for what they are – political posturing that are at best a distraction, at worse creating uncertainty that can undermine innovation’s ability to respond to the current and future response to pandemics. The current proposals should be shelved; and the focus should be directed, to admittedly more difficult actions that will change lives for the better: supporting country readiness, contributing to equitable distribution, and driving innovation (Ref Three priorities to urgently increase access to COVID-19 vaccines).
OXFAM – Media reaction in response to reports of a compromise on the vaccines TRIPS waiver
16 March 2022 OXFAM
In response to reports of a potential compromise agreed by the EU, South Africa, India and the US for a waiver of intellectual property rules for COVID vaccines, Max Lawson, Head of Inequality Policy for Oxfam and co-chair of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, said:
“After almost 18 months of stalling and millions of deaths, the EU has climbed down and finally admitted that intellectual property rules and pharmaceutical monopolies are a barrier to vaccinating the world. This is a tribute to millions of campaigners across the world who have demanded a Peoples Vaccine, but this leaked proposal is not the comprehensive TRIPS waiver demanded by over 100 governments. Unless it is significantly improved it will not do enough to bring an end to vaccine apartheid and ensure access for all.
“As it stands, this proposal seems to do little to address patents beyond the existing flexibilities in the TRIPS agreement. It ignores other intellectual property barriers like trade secrets which stand in the way of vaccine manufacturers. And by focusing only on vaccines and kicking the issue of COVID-19 treatments into the long grass, it will leave life-saving treatments out of reach for millions.
“In a crisis, half measures are not acceptable. Every barrier to accessing these crucial vaccines and treatments must be cleared away. We urge member states to return to the negotiating table and come back with a comprehensive waiver that will work to cut short this pandemic and guarantee everyone is protected.”
Notes to editors
The People’s Vaccine Alliance is a coalition of nearly 100 organizations and networks, supported by Nobel Laureates, health experts, economists, Heads of States, faith leaders and activists, working together for a People’s Vaccine, available free of charge to everyone, everywhere.