No deal on COVID vaccine patent relinquishment again: WTO
The World Trade Organization (WTO) said on Friday that its member countries had again not agreed to suspend intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, with some countries doubting a deal could be reached unless some delegations do not make “real compromises”.
South Africa and India have called for intellectual property rights to be temporarily lifted for coronavirus vaccines during the pandemic to boost production and address gaping inequalities in access between rich and poor nations.
However, the idea has met with stiff opposition from pharmaceutical giants and their host countries, who insist that patents are not the main impediments to increasing production and warn that the move could hamper innovation.
Pressure is mounting for an agreement a few weeks before the 12th WTO ministerial conference, which will take place from November 30 to December 3 in Geneva.
The Council of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) met on Wednesday and Thursday to try to move the issue forward.
The WTO works by consensus – all 164 member states must agree to any deal.
In a statement released on Friday, the WTO said the council had failed to come to an agreement.
The statement said some members “signaled the risk of not achieving a result unless delegations are able to make real compromises.”
“A positive and significant result … would not only send a powerful message of global solidarity, but would also prove that the WTO has the capacity to respond to a major global crisis,” added these members.
TRIPS Council Chairman and Norwegian Ambassador to the WTO Dagfinn Sorli admitted that the body “is not yet in a position to agree on a concrete and positive conclusion”.
He said the Council will continue to consult member states on how to reach consensus ahead of the Geneva ministerial conference. Further talks are also scheduled for October 26.
Many countries have supported South Africa and India’s call to lift coronavirus patents, as have the World Health Organization (WHO) and many non-profit organizations.
COVID vaccination rates are on average 30 times higher in rich countries than in poor countries. Many rich countries are now planning to roll out third doses of vaccines when billions of people do not yet have access to a first.
WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the yawning chasm in vaccination rates between the haves and have-nots was “devastating to the lives and livelihoods of Africans” and “morally unacceptable”. – AFP