Lifting of patents for Covid-19 vaccines

After intense negotiations between its 164 members, the World Trade Organization (WTO) reached an agreement that includes a five-year waiver of patents on vaccines against Covid-19 for developing countries.
“In the World Trade Organization, decisions are taken by consensus. This means that one country can single-handedly wreck an agreement. So we thought about what would be the minimum proposals that could be accepted in order to move forward, even if it means that there are points that will have to be reworked afterwards,” says South African Trade Minister Ebrahim Patel.
The dossier was submitted in October 2020 by South Africa and India, but the final text is more timid than the initial proposal. This is a disappointment for several associations, such as Médecins sans Frontières, which was hoping for a longer exemption and the inclusion of treatment and screening tests. But Ebrahim Patel maintains that this is a major step forward.
“This agreement is intended to allow local factories to produce vaccines or the ingredients needed to make them, without the agreement of the patent holders, and then to be able to export these vaccines, up to 100% of them, to other developing countries.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, South Africa and India have repeatedly denounced inequalities in access to the precious doses, in what has been called ”vaccine apartheid”. According to the WHO, 60% of the world’s population has received two doses, but the situation is still inequitable, with only 17% of the population in Libya, 8% in Nigeria and less than 5% in Cameroon.
The agreement, which allows local manufacturers to produce vaccines or components without permission from patent holders, is limited to five years and currently excludes Covid-19 testing and expensive therapeutics. While welcoming this “step forward”, the South African government said in a statement that “further partnerships will be required, including access to know-how and technology”.

About Geraldine Boechat 2737 Articles
Senior Editor for Medafrica Times and former journalist for Swiss National Television. former NGO team leader in Burundi and Somalia