Who supports the proposal to suspend vaccine patents

Who supports the proposal to suspend vaccine patents

The United States has now sided in favor of India and South Africa's proposal to the WTO. The position of the European Union is still unclear. What does the plan consist of?

(Photo by Joshua Roberts / Getty Images) The United States has declared its support for the temporary suspension of patents on coronavirus vaccines, in order to allow the production also to companies other than those that they developed them and own the intellectual property. This was announced yesterday, May 5, by Katherin Tai, the US representative to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the most important international organization for regulating world trade and activities. With this decision, the United States sided with many developing countries that last October proposed to the WTO to temporarily remove patent protections on coronavirus vaccines.

The first to present the proposal were India and South Africa, leading a group of about 60 countries. According to them, richer states should do more to ensure more vaccines for poorer and developing countries - 1 in 4 people have received at least one vaccine injection in richer countries, while in other countries it percentage is about 1 in 500 - and the suspension of patents could help in this sense, allowing to accelerate and increase the production of doses. On the other hand, opponents of the proposal argue that it is the complexity of production processes that causes delays in production and deliveries and not the problems related to intellectual property limitations.

These extraordinary times and circumstances of call for extraordinary measures.

The US supports the waiver of IP protections on COVID-19 vaccines to help end the pandemic and we’ll actively participate in @WTO negotiations to make that happen. pic.twitter.com/96ERlboZS8

- Ambassador Katherine Tai (@AmbassadorTai) May 5, 2021

So far the countries supporting India and South Africa have come to more of 100, to which the important international weight of the United States has been added. However, for decisions of this kind it is necessary to reach the unanimous consensus of all 164 member states of the WTO and this will require a long and not without tensions process. The European Union has yet to clarify its position. The only official comment came from Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who reiterated that the Union's goal is to increase vaccine production and it will therefore be necessary to assess whether the US move can actually contribute to this goal or less. And two days ago, during the meeting of G7 members in London, foreign ministers were unable to reach an agreement on the suspension of patents.

The timeframe for achieving the desired results could therefore be quite long. Both because of the difficulties that will arise in finding unanimity among the members of the WTO, and because, in addition to patents, pharmaceutical companies will have to have the right skills, adequate machinery and raw materials suitable for starting production.

However, despite these premises, the position of the United States has been received with great enthusiasm in the international community. The director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom, called it "a monumental event in the fight against Covid-19". The event is in fact a unique case, so far no pharmaceutical company has given up the intellectual property on its vaccines. Even Moderna, which announced the temporary suspension of patents on its vaccine, actually only shared part of the production information, but not enough to allow other companies to mass produce it.

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