Covid vaccines patent deal below expectation

Saturday June 25 2022

A syringe is loaded with the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. A new deal temporarily removes intellectual property barriers around patents for the vaccines. PHOTO | AFP


Proponents for a waiver on intellectual property (IP) rights on Covid-19 vaccines and drugs are “disappointed” with the outcome of the June 17 World Trade Organisation ministerial conference held in Geneva, Switzerland.

The new deal temporarily removes intellectual property barriers around patents for Covid-19 vaccines but postpones discussions on extending the waiver to treatments and tests.

Member countries will decide on the extension to cover the production and supply of Covid-19 diagnostics and therapeutics not later than six months from the date of the decision.

“An eligible member may apply the provisions of this decision until five years from the date of this decision. The General Council may extend such a period taking into consideration the exceptional circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the WTO agreement reads in part.

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It allows low- and middle-income countries to temporarily waive protections on those patents to produce the shots, either to use domestically or to export.


However, humanitarian organisations led by the Medecin Sans Frontieres (MSF) and international civil society say the agreement does not offer adequate waivers on intellectual property on all essential Covid-19 medical tools, as proposed by the waiver proponents 20 months ago.

Further, the agreement does not apply to all countries, defeating the purpose of a waiver as originally proposed.

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In a media statement, MSF International president Christos Christou said: “Overall, we are disappointed that a true intellectual property waiver, proposed in October 2020 covering all Covid-19 medical tools and including all countries, could not be agreed, even during a pandemic that has claimed more than 15 million people’s lives.”

He added that the agreement has failed to offer an effective and meaningful solution to help increase people’s access to needed medical tools, since “the measures outlined in the decision will not address pharmaceutical monopolies or ensure affordable access to lifesaving medical tools and will set a negative precedent for future global health crises and pandemics”.