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Goyal urges WTO members to remove IP impediments to Covid-19 vaccine production

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on April 15, 2021

WTO DG says vaccine producers should provide know-how, technology transfer

Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has urged all WTO members to create an environment for quick scaling up of global production for Covid-19 vaccines and other medical products by temporarily removing all impediments to production including, where necessary, intellectual property protection.

“...India and South Africa along with 57 other WTO members have co-sponsored a proposal for temporary and limited-scope waiver from certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement...Waiver is not intended to take away protection given to pharma companies. It focuses only on Covid-19 vaccines, associated medicines, and cure,” he said at a WTO virtual event on ‘Covid-19 and vaccine equity’ on Tuesday.

Biden Administration deeply focussed on expanding global vaccine manufacturing, delivery: US

Developed countries say ‘no’

While developed members including the EU and the US are opposing the waiver, support from various quarters in favour of temporary suspension of intellectual property rights on crucial medical products is growing.

More than 170 former world leaders and Nobel laureates have reportedly written to US President Joe Biden recently asking for a suspension of intellectual property for Covid-19 vaccines.

Since the world, clearly, is not producing sufficient vaccines due to limited licensing agreements, to bridge the supply deficit, every tool at our disposal should be used towards producing enough vaccines, he said.

All potential manufacturers need to be engaged on terms that are transparent and non-exclusive to address serious supply side constraints and scarcity.

India’s ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative earns praise at WTO

The Minister cautioned that an inequitable vaccination programme could prolong the pandemic for many years through cycles of mutation and may cost the global economy trillions of dollars as lost output and fiscal and monetary stimulus.

“We welcome any initiative that can help to ramp up manufacturing of Covid-19 medical products. All initiatives must be explored in parallel and in a timely manner,” he said.

WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala called upon vaccine manufacturers to try and turn around existing production capacity where it existed, providing know-how and technology transfer, and take steps towards longer-term investment.

Speaking at the event, the DG highlighted the importance of increased contract transparency. International organisations and financial institutions, in addition to providing financial support for existing and new capacity, could provide capacity support on regulatory issues for vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, she said.

Published on April 15, 2021

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