Sunday, 28 November, 2021
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WTO patent rights impasse frustrates attempts to ramp vaccine production

A push to increase production of COVID-19 vaccines for poor nations hangs in the balance at the World Trade Organisation amid disagreement between richer and developing countries over the issue of patent rights. IoL reports that South Africa and India planned to renew their bid at a two-day meeting to waive rules of the WTO's Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) agreement, a move that would allow generic or other manufacturers to make more vaccines.

Their proposal is backed by dozens of largely developing countries at the WTO, but opposed by Western countries including Britain, Switzerland, EU nations and the US, which have large domestic pharmaceutical industries.

Proposals need backing by a consensus of the WTO's 164 members to pass.

IoL reports that the issue was set to come up at the WTO's TRIPS Council on Wednesday afternoon last week. Members would then hold an eighth discussion on the topic since it was first raised in October.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who became WTO director-general on 1 March, called the intensifying TRIPS discussions "vitally important", but said governments and businesses needed to act now to increase production, especially in emerging markets.

She said that manufacturers should come together with bodies such as the World Health Organisation and vaccines alliance GAVI, whose board she used to chair, and business associations to look into options.

The report says the next TRIPS Council meeting is set for 8-9 June, but the group will probably be convened again to discuss vaccines before then.


link url=""]Full IoL report (Open access)[/link]



See also MedicalBrief archives:

[link url=""]SA has the legal tools to challenge vaccine nationalism – and should use them[/link]


[link url=""]Outrage over COVID-19 vaccine inequities: Rich world hogs supplies and patents[/link]

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