WTO decides for the first time to suspend patents on vaccines
According to an earlier reports from the world health organization, problem from the beginning was distribution.
Numerous producing countries blocked exports in the name of health sovereignty, says Thomas Cueni, head of the International Federation of the Pharmaceutical Industry (Ifpma).
Cueni who has been instrumental in creating the AMR Action Fund and the Chair of the Board of the cross-sectoral AMR Industry Alliance.
“That has not been treated correctly by the WTO,” he denounces.
And in addition, the logistical problems to distribute medicines that require special care, due to their sensitivity to temperature variations, persist.
“It’s simply too late” for new factories to open, said WTO trade minister, Shri Piyush Goyal.
“We are disappointed that it has not been possible to achieve a true repeal of intellectual property that covers all medical options against Covid-19, in all countries,” Dr. Christos said in a statement.
Christos Christou M.D. is the international president of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
The decision by Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to temporarily suspend patents on anti-covid vaccines is a symbolic act whose real scope is unknown, experts say.
After almost two years of negotiations, the 164 countries of the WTO reached yesterday that “unprecedented” pact that allows developing countries to manufacture vaccines against the coronavirus for five years, without paying royalties.
This includes messenger RNA technology, a scientific novelty that propelled treatments against the pandemic.
Countries that wish to do so will be able to use this method without having to have the authorization of the laboratory that discovered it.
Non-governmental organizations and regional powers such as Africa or India claimed this right.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), although 60% of the world’s population has received two doses of anti-covid vaccine, the situation is very uneven.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the current Director-General of the WTO. Ngozi took office on 1 March 2021, becoming the first woman and the first African to serve as Director-General.
In Nigeria only 8% of the population has been vaccinated, less than 5% in Cameroon, 17% in Libya.
The current status quo “amounts to a system of vaccine apartheid,” according to , the U.N. special rapporteur on discrimination.
She is a Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Promise Institute for Human Rights at University of California, Los Angeles.
Too late? This is the first time that patent suspension has been adopted within the WTO.
In 2001, the organization voted to create a compulsory licensing mechanism for HIV tritherapy treatments, i.e. authorization for developing countries to use these pharmaceutical formulations to reproduce, even without the agreement of their creators.
That allowed to reduce the price of the treatments, although the laboratories showed their discontent.
This new agreement is “a step forward” with respect to the compulsory licenses that were legally created in 2001, explains François Pochart, of the August Debouzy cabinet.
“States can decide for themselves, without having to make a demand. The real novelty is that the repeal also allows the country that will produce the vaccine to export to other markets, to another member that is eligible, and not only to its own country,” he explains.
However, the pharmaceutical industry warns that the production of vaccines is already very high.
By mid-June, about 14 billion doses had been produced worldwide, according to scientific data analysis firm Aifinity.
Some producers, such as the giant Serum Institute of India, even decided to interrupt their production, due to the lack of demand.