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TRIPS waiver

Activists demonstrate in favor of an agreement to waive patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines on in Geneva on November 30, 2021 in Geneva. (Phot: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)

Global Leaders Urge Nations to Eschew 'Weakened' TRIPS Waiver Proposal

"The E.U.-U.S. plan puts their interests ahead of humanity's," say current and former progressive government officials from five countries.

Brett Wilkins

A group of current and former government officials from five nations on Monday implored world leaders to reject a reported U.S.- and European Union-led "compromise" proposal on lifting Covid-19 vaccines patent protections.

"Vaccine apartheid continues and it kills. It prolongs the pandemic, threatening lives—vaccinated as well as unvaccinated—all over the world."

"We call on countries across the globe to reject the U.S.-E.U. weakened alternative and return to the original vision put forward by India and South Africa—to build a world based on cooperation and solidarity, instead of competition and charity," members of Progressive International's (PI) Union for Vaccine Internationalism said in a statement.

The signers urge world leaders to not endorse a proposal leaked earlier this month which would waive parts of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement for the purpose of fighting the coronavirus pandemic. They assert that the compromise proposal to temporarily lift restrictions on the production and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines "would be worse than no deal at all."

"The proposal aims to supersede that tabled by India and South Africa at the World Trade Organization 18 months ago to temporarily waive intellectual property rights protections for technologies needed to prevent, contain, or treat Covid-19," they write.

The statement was signed by Mexican Deputy Secretary of Prevention and Health Promotion Hugo López-Gatell Ramírez, former Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, Canadian Member of Parliament Niki Ashton, British Member of Parliament Jeremy Corbyn, and K.K. Shailaja, a communist member of the Legislative Assembly in the southern Indian state of Kerala.

The signers argue that had rich countries accepted the original TRIPS waiver proposal, "more of the world's population would have been vaccinated faster. There would also be fewer new pharmaceutical billionaires."

The PI members continue:

The E.U.-U.S. plan puts their interests ahead of humanity's by ducking the necessary technology transfer that would clear the path for production in many more countries and facilities around the world. Furthermore, it excludes tests and nonvaccine treatments and places onerous and complex conditions on licensing.

Vaccine apartheid continues and it kills. It prolongs the pandemic, threatening lives—vaccinated as well as unvaccinated—all over the world. Eighteen months since India and South Africa first proposed freeing the vaccines for their widest use, only 14.4% of people in low-income countries have received even one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

This artificial scarcity of vaccines is a result of a handful of companies that seek to control production, price, and profit. By keeping recipes and technologies under lock and key, they have pushed countries in the Global South to the back of the queue—turning access to lifesaving medication into a bidding match.

While more than 100 countries support the TRIPS waiver proposed by India and South Africa, the E.U., Norway, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom have fought to block its adoption.

The PI members join others including activists, economists, and public health experts in calling for a comprehensive TRIPS waiver.

"We must accept no compromises," Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima stressed on Monday, "we need *full* #TRIPSwaiver for vaccines, tests, and treatments!"

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