Pharma groups decry Covid-19 vaccine IP waiver ahead of Geneva conference
If the World Trade Organization gets its way, an IP waiver deal for Covid-19 vaccines may be reached as soon as next week. But the critics keep piling up.
A handful of pharma advocacy and lobbying groups — including the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations and the Washington Council on International Trade — decried an IP waiver deal on Thursday, arguing that it’s unnecessary and threatens to quash innovation.
“An IP waiver does not address inequitable access to Covid-19 vaccines and will put global health security at risk. It will undermine innovation and industry’s ability to partner, invest at risk, and respond quickly to future pandemics,” the IFPMA said in a statement.
TRIPS Council chair, ambassador Lansana Gberie of Sierra Leone, said yesterday that delegations around the waiver “have entered into real negotiation mode in the last 24 hours,” and that the WTO is aiming to get a version ready for adoption next week by ministers arriving in Geneva for the 12th Ministerial Conference.
Both India and South Africa called for an IP waiver back in 2020. Just 32% of people in South Africa are fully vaccinated, according to the New York Times, compared to 67% in the US. Under the TRIPS agreement, developing countries would be able to reproduce Covid vaccines by using the formula and technology created by original manufacturers.
However, the WCIT argues that such a deal “detracts from more effective solutions and poses a threat to IP rights which are critical in alleviating the scourge of inequality and global poverty.” The group argued that the real problems are in clearance at points of entry, infrastructure gaps, and supply chain gaps such as a lack of refrigeration equipment in local distribution centers.
“Led by the United States, the developed world has closed the supply gap through vaccine donations — and indeed, there is now a global surplus of doses,” WCIT said.
In May, Switzerland announced they were destroying 600,000 expired doses of Moderna’s shot. England and Denmark have also tossed more than 6.6 million doses.
“By May 2021, less than six months after the first vaccine authorization, monthly production output was close to a billion vaccine doses; enough to vaccinate the world if countries were willing and able to share,” the IFPMA said in a statement.
PhRMA also chimed in on Thursday, adding that world leaders “should focus on the real challenges of getting Covid-19 vaccines and treatments to people around the world, such as last-mile distribution, supply chain issues and vaccine hesitancy.”
Meanwhile, others argue that the proposed deal is too little too late.
“It does not do much that you can’t already do,” KEI founder and IP waiver and compulsory license advocate Jamie Love told Endpoints News back in March, upon seeing a leaked draft of the watered-down deal. Nonprofit advocacy org Public Citizen also said in a statement that the proposal would help no one “but the floundering WTO and should be rejected.”