Two years into the pandemic, the trade rules that pose barriers to scaling up production of the vaccines, medicines, tests and other health products we dearly need have not been addressed, highlighting the need for an automatic mechanism to suspend problematic rules when a pandemic, other public health emergencies of international concern, or other exceptional circumstances arise, rather than leaving it to the murky politics of the World Trade Organisation.
We call on the 65 co-sponsors of the meaningful TRIPS Waiver to reject this inadequate counterproposal
On 15 March, the European Commission (EC) finally admitted that intellectual property rules pose a threat to vaccine access globally. The counterproposal that was leaked to the press is attributed to the quartet of USA, the EC, India and South Africa, but only reflects positions from USA and the EC. This counterproposal for Covid-19 vaccines is a de-facto acknowledgement that something needs to be done, which is a welcome change from the earlier adamant attitude of the EC to block discussions on this issue.
However, this counterproposal is absolutely inadequate to resolve the issue at hand and we call on the 65 co-sponsors of the meaningful TRIPS Waiver that has the potential to bring us towards a solution to reject this inadequate counterproposal.
The counterproposal does not offer much that is new than what the Doha Declaration already provides for as flexibility in implementing the intellectual property rules under TRIPS on account of public health concerns. It does not provide for technology transfer either, which is at the core of the solution we need.
Further, it covers only vaccines, is geographically limited, covers only patents which is insufficient to facilitate manufacturing. It even creates additional requirements for the existing ability of governments to bypass patents on account of public health, effectively undermining this mechanism, as MSF and others have highlighted.
If the compromised text does not bring real solutions, this deal is worse than not having a deal
If the compromised text does not bring real solutions, this deal is worse than not having a deal.
Today, rich countries have given out more boosters than the total coverage provided by low-income countries since vaccines are available. Yet, the proliferation of new variants continues to affect people in both high and low income countries.
This vaccine apartheid is set to be complemented by an apartheid in medicines that are effective against Covid-19. As a result, lives are unnecessarily lost, livelihoods continue to suffer from stagnating economies and frontline health workers have not had a respite in more than two years.
That we had to wait this long to have a bad compromise shows that the mechanisms of our international trade governance system are inadequate to address this kind of challenges in a globalized world.
While we continue to demand a meaningful TRIPS waiver for the Covid-19 pandemic, we will also work towards instituting a permanent mechanism that would automatically trigger the suspension of the required provisions under TRIPS when a public health emergency of international concern that could become a pandemic is announced in the future.
It is our moral responsibility to learn from this devastating period in human history and ensure we do not commit the same mistake again, so that we can avoid unnecessary suffering of people for the sake of maximizing profit in the future.