Waiver of intellectual property on COVID vaccines would not facilitate immediate access – EURACTIV.com

Negotiations for an intellectual property (IP) rights waiver at the World Trade Organization (WTO) are still ongoing, but a final deal would not immediately ease access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. 19, according to a WTO official.

There is an established principle for overriding “built-in” intellectual property rights in the WTO’s TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement, said Antony Taubman, director of the intellectual property, government procurement and competition at the WTO.

Speaking at a conference on Health challenges in the EU in the context of the pandemic at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on March 31, however, he stressed that he could not speak on behalf of the WTO or its members.

One of the dominant themes was the ongoing negotiations between the Quad – the EU, the United States, India and South Africa – at the WTO, which are trying to reach an agreement on the Waiver of Intellectual Property Rights to COVID-19 Vaccines and Treatments. A leak reported by EURACTIV in March revealed a tentative compromise.

“It is part of intellectual property policy, that intellectual property rights are not absolute, that the public interest can be recognized and can override the exclusive effect of intellectual property rights,” Taubman explained, adding that he did not consider this particularly controversial.

What surprises Taubman more is the uncertainty of governments about how to override the effect of intellectual property rights.

“In some cases it has never been used in their laws, it may be missing from the legislation. It may be there, but without enabling procedures or procedures can take longer and be more difficult to manage than necessary.

Another point was that even if the WTO negotiations resulted in a consensus among all members on an effective IP waiver, there might be a waiting period until it becomes a reality.

“You wouldn’t want [it to be immediate]because that would make the rules of the WTO much more powerful and [have more of an] effect in international relations. It would not be appropriate or desirable at all,” he said and added:

“The outcome of the current discussions would be to expand the range of choice of options available to member governments, potentially to quite a dramatic level, or at least to a more focused level. This is still under negotiation. But it is still up to the governments concerned to work together to make use of these options.

Taubman said access to the results of medical innovation is “absolutely essential to achieving public health.”

“What we hear from the most affected countries is that they are worried about their dependence on donations [and] the charity of others, which may be well-intentioned, but is not seen as sustainable or systematic,” he said, citing stories of countries having to destroy expired vaccines.

Europe is the main obstacle

Daniel Bertossa, deputy general secretary of Public Services International (PSI), a global union federation for public service workers, has accused EU countries of being the ‘political blockers in the WTO systems’ .

“The flexibilities exist, they can be triggered. This requires consensus, but that consensus has been blocked at the political level, largely by European countries, which have large national pharmaceutical commercial interests,” he told attendees at the event.

PSI represents the “health workforce of the world”, as Bertossa called it, with 670 unions in 170 countries, many of which are in the care sector. Health practitioners and countries in the South experienced “huge frustration” and “expected more global solidarity”, he added.

“It is fair to say that our members have universally borne the brunt of some of the failures of global coordination and public policy as we have all tried to deal with this pandemic,” Bertossa said, adding that workers in the healthcare from the south of the world felt the blow much harder than their colleagues from the north.

He argued that the problems faced are unified by “a fundamental tension at the heart of health systems”, namely that health professionals find themselves in systems “that are increasingly not designed to prioritize public health concerns and are increasingly designed for commercial purposes”.

South Africa urged to reject EU offer on COVID waiver

Leading economists have urged South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to reject an EU-US compromise that would grant a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights over COVID vaccines, warning that “a bad deal is worse. that disagree”.

A long road to renunciation

The leak of the provisional compromise has drawn many criticisms even if it is not yet final. As EURACTIV later reported, South Africa has been asked to reject the EU waiver offer.

“We fully support you in rejecting this misleading and ineffective proposal, which represents the European Union’s belligerent blockade of any real lifting of intellectual property barriers and the United States’ insistence that the copyright waiver intellectual property they support is limited to vaccines,” Jayati Ghosh and Nobel Memorial said. Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, along with Oxfam’s Africa director, Peter Kamalingin, wrote in a letter to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

In addition to the already existing criticisms, a letter addressed to EU Commissioners, Member States’ Ambassadors to the WTO and Members of the European Parliament was sent on behalf of 42 civil society organizations March 30.

They called on recipients to “refrain from rushing WTO members to quickly adopt a purported proposal on intellectual property rights and COVID-19.”

“The text under consideration by some WTO members contains problematic and contradictory elements and remains largely insufficient as an effective response to the pandemic. Further negotiations are necessary to ensure an effective outcome in a multilateral manner, responding to the needs expressed by many WTO members and civil society,” the letter states.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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