DNDi welcomes yesterday’s announcement from the US Trade Representative that the United States supports negotiations for a World Trade Organization (WTO) waiver on intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines. This is an important first step.
The decision is a result of the actions of many countries, organizations, and advocates around the world. We applaud India and South Africa, in particular, for their resolute leadership at the WTO and support for common-sense measures to bolster equitable access to lifesaving COVID-19 medical tools.
While the US announcement represents a breakthrough following seven months of negotiations, urgent action is needed to save lives today, while boosting production and supply to meet global needs in the months to come.
‘We at DNDi know first-hand how intellectual property restrictions can obstruct research, production, and distribution of affordable health technologies, so removing this obstacle for COVID-19 vaccines is a critical step,’ said Dr Bernard Pécoul, Executive Director of DNDi.
‘But to maximise the impact for individuals and countries facing devastating infection, hospitalisation, and death rates – and ultimately help defeat this global pandemic – we urge governments and all other public and private actors to work together to ensure all health tools needed to diagnose, treat, and prevent COVID-19 are in the hands of clinicians and patients as quickly as possible.'
DNDi calls on countries and companies to take four immediate steps.
First, countries that have opposed the TRIPS waiver – including European Union Member States and the European Commission, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom – must join the US in supporting the India and South Africa proposal and swiftly negotiate text with all WTO Member States. Negotiations must not take months. They must be transparent and, importantly, must cover not only vaccines, but all COVID-19 medical technologies needed to protect health and save lives, including COVID-19 therapeutics and diagnostics.
Second, companies must come to the table and ensure sharing of technology and know-how.
Third, significant investments must be made to ramp up manufacturing capacity, including investments in production hubs in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
And finally – because scaling up additional global production capacity will have lifesaving impact but may take time – all countries, including the US, must take immediate action to share excess supply of vaccines and ensure equitable allocation to countries in need. With 400,000 new infections and almost 4,000 deaths reported yesterday in India alone, there is no time to spare.