The UK government is in talks about a plan to waive COVID-19 vaccine patents to boost the production of shots in low and middle-income countries, reports The Guardian.
The discussions come amid growing calls for Britain and other European countries to follow the US in supporting the proposal put before the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Michael Weinstein, founder of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), warned that a failure to act swiftly could allow COVID-19 to rip through the world’s poorest countries resulting in a ‘moral and public health failure’ akin to the initial woefully inadequate global response to the Aids pandemic in the 1980s and 1990s.
India and SA have been pushing for the WTO to waive a longstanding agreement designed to protect intellectual property, known as the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, to improve access to the vaccines.This month, 140 MEPs issued a letter to the European Commission urging it to adopt the proposal for a temporary waiver to address vaccine inequality.
Weinstein maintains: ‘The real issue is production and the patents, and the lack of co-ordination between governments.’ However, Sir Robin Jacob, chair of intellectual property law at University College London, said there was ‘no evidence’ that suspending vaccine patents would lead to more jabs.