WHO boss says vaccine intellectual property waiver is not a property “snatch”

GENEVA: The World Health Organization on Wednesday sought to reassure pharmaceutical companies that a proposal to suspend patent rights on Covid-19 vaccines was not an attempt to “wrest” their rights of intellectual property.
With more than four million dead and the toll likely to be much higher, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said vaccine makers should be offered incentives in exchange for the temporary waiver of their rights.
“Of course, we can’t take your property away,” Tedros said via a video link from Tokyo at the start of a meeting with the World Trade Organization, pharmaceutical companies and global financial institutions.
“With so many lives at stake, profits and patents must come second,” he said, without giving any details on the financial incentives offered.
Waiving intellectual property rights would help reach the 11 billion doses of vaccine that the WHO says are needed to protect 70% of people in each country by mid-2022.
This is the second meeting in Geneva to try to bridge the gap on how to increase vaccine supply and reduce vaccine inequalities that are causing rich countries to consider booster shots while health workers in poor countries are doing without.
Of the 1.1 billion doses produced worldwide in June, “only 1.4% went to Africans, who represent 17% of the world’s population,” said WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweal , in his opening speech.
“Only 0.24% went to people in low-income countries. And both shares fell further in the first half of July,” she said.
In addition to the patent suspension, barriers to trade in vaccine ingredients must be removed and the labs agree to transfer their technology, Tedros said.

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