MSF calls on World Trade Organization to waive Covid vaccine IP

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  • MSF wants governments to waive intellectual property rights that block access to Covid-19 vaccines
  • South Africa and India put forward a proposal to ensure that middle and low-income countries can access the vaccine too
  • MSF is running a campaign for ordinary people to support South Africa and India’s proposal 

Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières - MSF) is calling on governments to put lives before profits in ensuring that there is equitable access to the Covid-19 vaccine.

The international medical humanitarian organisation is running a campaign ahead of the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s General Council meeting on 10 December to consider a proposal from South Africa and India.

The countries proposed to invoke a waiver of certain intellectual property rights such as copyright, industrial designs, patents and undisclosed information under the Agreement of Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights, until the majority of the world population gains access to effective vaccines and develops immunity to Covid-19. 

This comes after first world countries like the US and UK have preordered vaccine doses for their population as pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna revealed the results of their respective vaccines being over 95% effective against Covid-19.

This means that countries that are not wealthy will have very little chances of accessing the vaccines. This prompted the move by South Africa and India to put forward this proposal as some WTO members oppose the waiving of these intellectual property rights.

“A small group of WTO members – Australia, Brazil, Canada, the EU, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, the UK, and the US – are withholding support that would help build much-needed consensus on the proposal.

"Some of these countries have traditionally backed the interests of their pharmaceutical corporations through a proprietary IP system,” MSF said in a statement.

MSF will be running social media campaigns called No Patents, No Monopolies in a Pandemic prompting people to take action to show support for equitable access of the vaccines and to garner support for South Africa- India proposal.

The proposal also seeks to increase the capacity of vaccine production in middle and low-income countries in order to improve the chances of accessing life-saving treatment. Moderna said that it can only produce between 100 million and 125 million doses available globally in the first quarter of 2021.

While Pfizer says it has the potential to supply globally up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.

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