900,000 petition WTO calling for universal access to Covid vaccine
London, Dec. 14, 2020 (AltAfrica)-The World Trade Organisation, WTO has received a petition calling for universal access to affordable Covid-19 vaccines.
The petition was delivered virtually by Avaaz, a global online citizen movement, on December 9. It has more than 900,000 signatures from individuals around the world.
The petition has asked all governments, WTO members and pharmaceutical companies to ensure access to lifesaving Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and equipment for everyone.
The petition came ahead of a meeting held on December 10 of the Council for Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Discussions on a proposal to waive certain obligations in the TRIPS Agreement in relation to the prevention, containment or treatment of Covid-19 are on course.
WTO Head of External Relations Bernard Kuiten thanked Avaaz for giving citizens worldwide a global platform to express their concerns.
“In order to leave this devastating pandemic behind us, international co-operation and co-ordination are crucial,” he said.
The petition addresses the negative impact that intellectual property (IP) barriers have had in the past and could have on the manufacturing and supply of lifesaving Covid-19 materials.
For instance, Gilead, the patent holder on Remdesivir, the only drug so far approved specifically to treat Covid-19, have priced it at $2,340 for a five-day treatment course in most countries. This is despite receiving more than $70 million in public funding to develop it. Research that has shown it can be manufactured for as little as $9 per treatment course.
South Africa, India, Kenya, Mozambique, Pakistan and eSwatini submitted a proposal earlier this year to the WTO requesting that members waive four categories of IP rights – copyright, industrial designs, patents and undisclosed information.
The proposal wants the waiver on IP to stand until most of the world has reached immunity, and equal access to Covid-19 treatment. “By removing intellectual property on Covid-19 medical tools, we take back control from pharmaceutical corporations,” the countries said. “We can avoid repeating the tragedy of the HIV/Aids epidemic, when monopolies on lifesaving treatments saw people in high-income countries gain access to lifesaving ARVs (antiretrovirals) while millions in developing countries were left to die, despite the existence of affordable HIV drugs.”
However, some WTO members — Australia, Brazil, Canada, the EU, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, the UK, and the US — oppose this proposal.
Overriding monopolies on Covid-19 drugs, vaccines, tools and equipment will allow uninterrupted global collaboration to scale-up manufacturing and supply resulting in a faster response to the pandemic.