The UK will be asked to reconsider its opposition to giving up intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines and treatments at a meeting of the World Trade Organization on Friday, a move that would allow the mass production of treatments and inoculations against disease and could significantly shorten the duration. from the pandemic, activists say.
India and South Africa Have proposed WTO member states to be allowed to waive patents and other intellectual property (IP) rights on any Covid-19-related treatments and tools until the end of the pandemic, including the expected Moderna and Pfizer / BionNTech vaccines that are approved for use in the coming weeks.
Discussions on the proposal will be held again in Geneva on November 20. Opponents of the move include the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia and the EU, all of which have booked billions of doses of potential vaccines through bilateral agreements.
If the exemption were adopted, it would allow manufacturers to start producing Covid-19 vaccines, treatments, diagnostics, and any other tools used to fight the disease without fear of being sued or prosecuted.
“It would open up its knowledge, data and patents to all manufacturers around the world who could do this,” said Roz Scourse, a policy advisor at Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
Advocacy groups say pharmaceutical companies have received record-breaking taxpayer funding, including $ 2.5 billion (£ 1.88 billion) for Pfizer / BioNTech, $ 2.48 billion for Moderna and $ 1.7 billion for the AstraZeneca / candidate University of Oxford, according to MSF, but they maintain control over who receives the vaccine, when, and over the price and quantities.
In its statement of opposition to the exemption at a WTO meeting in October, the UK government said that the existing intellectual property system allowed pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily share data and technology, and some had already done so.
“Beyond hypotheses, we have not identified clear ways in which intellectual property has acted as a barrier to accessing vaccines, treatments or technologies in the global response to Covid-19,” the UK mission told the trade group. .
“A waiver of intellectual property rights established in travel [trade-related intellectual property rights] The settlement is an extreme measure to address an unproven problem. The UK is of the view that following the proposed path would be counterproductive and undermine a regime that offers solutions to the problems at hand. “
Companies such as AstraZeneca and Novavax have reached agreements with Gavi, an alliance that aims to increase immunization in poor countries, and others to share their technology with the Serum Institute of India and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, an agreement that will provide the fewer than 200 million applicants from low-income countries or both at a maximum price of $ 3 per dose.