Leaked proposal for Covid-19 intellectual property rights waiver ‘half-measure’
An emerging international agreement to waive certain intellectual property rights in relation to Covid-19 vaccines has been criticised by civil society groups as a “half-measure”.
India and South Africa have led calls since October 2020 for certain parts of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to be waived in relation to the prevention, containment or treatment of Covid-19.
The call for a TRIPS waiver has been backed by a large number of developing countries as well as international civil society groups such as the People’s Vaccine Alliance, but has been frustrated by opposition from the European Union and the UK in particular.
Quadrilateral talks between the EU, the United States, South Africa and India have now reportedly resulted in a compromise agreement which would waive intellectual property rights solely in relation to Covid-19 vaccines and not in relation to Covid-19 treatments.
Max Lawson, co-chair of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, said: “After almost 18 months of stalling and millions of deaths, the EU has climbed down and finally admitted that intellectual property rules and pharmaceutical monopolies are a barrier to vaccinating the world.
“This is a tribute to millions of campaigners across the world who have demanded a People’s Vaccine, but this leaked proposal is not the comprehensive TRIPS waiver demanded by over 100 governments. Unless it is significantly improved it will not do enough to bring an end to vaccine apartheid and ensure access for all.
“As it stands, this proposal seems to do little to address patents beyond the existing flexibilities in the TRIPS agreement. It ignores other intellectual property barriers like trade secrets which stand in the way of vaccine manufacturers. And by focusing only on vaccines and kicking the issue of Covid-19 treatments into the long grass, it will leave lifesaving treatments out of reach for millions.
“In a crisis half measures are not acceptable. Every barrier to accessing these crucial vaccines and treatments must be cleared away. We urge member states to return to the negotiating table and come back with a comprehensive waiver that will work to cut short this pandemic and guarantee everyone is protected.”