Healthcare & Pharmaceuticals

Backers of IP waiver for COVID-19 drugs make fresh push at WTO

2 minute read

A senior citizen receives the Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at a vaccination center in Le Cannet, France, January 19, 2021. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/File Photo

Register now for FREE unlimited access to

GENEVA, Jan 19 (Reuters) - South Africa and India argued in favour of a waiver of intellectual property rights on COVID-19 drugs and vaccines at a closed-door meeting of the World Trade Organization on Tuesday but opponents showed little sign of budging, trade sources said.

Proponents of the temporary waiver as the pandemic continues to rage say that IP rules are hindering the urgent scale-up of COVID-19 vaccine production amid growing criticism of the inequitable distribution of shots. read more

The waiver's critics include the European Union, the United States and Switzerland, all home to major pharmaceutical companies. Some have argued that waiving IP rights does not address the manufacturing and distribution capacity problems that are currently impeding drug supplies.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to

Two trade sources familiar with the discussions said that there was no indication of a shift in established positions at the meeting in Geneva of the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.

In the run-up to the talks, proponents published a 30-page response to some questions raised by opposing countries.

"One of the key reasons underlying insufficient supply and impacting procurement is the way major vaccine developers are managing their IP and technologies," the document said.

"If we allow ramping up of manufacturing, and diversifying of supply options there will be more timely and equitable distribution."

Shailly Gupta from French medical charity MSF (Doctors Without Borders) said that opposing countries seemed to be deliberately seeking to buy time.

"It is important to note that sponsors of this proposal are being repeatedly asked a similar set of questions in an attempt to stall the process," she said.

If the council agrees on a position, it will submit a proposal to the WTO's General Council, whose 164 members typically make decisions by consensus only.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to
Reporting by Emma Farge; editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Sonya Hepinstall

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

More from Reuters