The consumer protection group Public Citizen is calling on the US to agree to a temporary intellectual property exemption for coronavirus vaccines. The US is blocking an international move to waive World Trade Organisation rules that require countries to guarantee monopoly control of pharmaceutical companies and contribute to vaccine nationalism. As of last week, 130 countries had yet to receive a single dose of vaccine.
More than 100 countries are pushing for a relaxation of WTO rules on vaccine patents. Why is the US still blocking the way?
With the death toll from the pandemic approaching 2.5 million, strict IPR rules could prevent much of the world from getting COVID-19 vaccines. More than 45 million people in the United States have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to the United Nations, while 130 other countries have received no vaccines at all, leading to what some call "vaccine apartheid". At the World Trade Organisation, South Africa and India are leading a push by more than 100 nations to waive intellectual property rules that give pharmaceutical companies monopolistic control over the vaccines they develop, even if the vaccines are largely developed with public funds to speed distribution of the life-saving drugs - but the US has been a major obstacle to easing those restrictions. "The proposal really aims to ensure that everyone has access," says Mustaqeem De Gama, a member of South Africa's WTO delegation. "We should allow more producers to produce, scale up and make sure we are all safe in the shortest possible time." We also speak with Illinois Congressman Jan Schakowsky, who supports the WTO waiver. "We know that these intellectual property rights really overlook people around the world," she says.
MY GOODMAN: As the global number of COVID deaths approaches two and a half million, half a million of those deaths here in the United States, we begin today with a look at how intellectual property rights are preventing much of the world from getting COVID vaccines. In the United States, over 45 million people have received at least their first dose of a vaccine. But in much of the world, COVID vaccines will not be available for months, if not years. The United Nations recently warned that 130 countries have not received vaccines at all, leading to what some have called an apartheid system for vaccines.
South Africa and India are steering a push by more than 100 nations for the World Trade Organisation to waive intellectual property rules that give pharmaceutical companies monopolistic control over the vaccines they develop, even if those vaccines are largely developed with public funds. Last autumn, the Trump administration blocked a temporary waiver of the rules known as TRIPS - which is the WTO agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights. The Biden administration is now facing mounting pressure from Public Citizen and other groups to reverse the US position ahead of a key meeting on Monday. Lori Wallach is director of Public Citizen es Global Trade Watch.