[Ip-health] Devex: UN health assembly weighs equal access to COVID-19 technologies

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Mon May 18 04:34:45 PDT 2020


Inside Development
World Health Assembly

UN health assembly weighs equal access to COVID-19 technologies

By Vince Chadwick, Jenny Lei Ravelo // 18 May 2020

BRUSSELS/MANILA — The World Health Assembly meets virtually on Monday, with
the question of equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, treatment and
vaccines at center stage.

World Health Assembly

Costa Rica wrote to the World Health Organization in March, urging it to
help pool rights to COVID-19 technologies, data, and knowledge, including
vaccines. The proposal follows the WHO-led Access to COVID-19 Tools
Accelerator, a global commitment to accelerate the development, production,
and equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics for

“The idea is to make available, for everybody around the world, the
different advancements or innovations [on COVID-19],” Costa Rican President
Carlos Alvarado Quesada told reporters Friday. “To put those into service
at the lowest cost, without any rivalries, to protect people.”

With over 4.5 million cases and more than 300,000 deaths worldwide, the
international community is working to fast track the development of a
vaccine against COVID-19, and speed up finding a viable treatment against
the disease. Alongside these efforts are growing calls for equitable access
to these technologies, which has been a challenge in past pandemics.

Given the spread of COVID-19, calls for access to these technologies are no
longer limited to low-income countries. The U.S. government’s alleged offer
to buy a German vaccine developer, and French company Sanofi’s
since-retracted statement that first access of any vaccine it produces
would go to the United States, which helped finance early research and
development, caused outrage.

The virtual launch of WHO’s accelerator last month was attended by world
leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor
Angela Merkel, showing their support for the initiative.

Mariângela Simão, WHO assistant director-general for access to medicines,
vaccines, and pharmaceuticals, said at WHO’s press conference Friday that
the platform proposal from Costa Rica is “complementary to the ACT
accelerator because it provides an operational framework for not only
sharing knowledge, data, related to COVID technologies, but also the
opportunity to do a repository on open licensing.”

But Simão said that the Costa Rica initiative, also backed by Chile, is
only being “pre-launched” for now.

“We still have several member states which are in negotiation with Costa
Rica and required a little bit more time to finalize the call to action,”
she said. The platform’s official launch is slated for May 29.

Opinion: To deliver a COVID-19 vaccine equitably, we must start planning now

We will need political commitment and wisdom to ensure that a coronavirus
vaccine is delivered globally and equitably, writes PATH's Deborah Atherly.

Simão said a WHA resolution would address part of Costa Rica’s proposal,
“for example, ensuring equitable access, supporting of COVID-related
knowledge, lessons learned, experience, best practice — these are part of
the resolution as it is at the moment.”

Member state negotiations in the lead up to Monday’s truncated version of
the WHA centered on a European Union-led resolution, which includes
references to the Costa Rica proposal.

A draft of the resolution, which would not be binding, includes a call for
international organizations and other relevant stakeholders to “work
collaboratively at all levels to develop, test, and scale-up production of
safe, effective, quality, affordable diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines
and vaccines for the COVID-19 response, including, existing mechanisms for
voluntary pooling and licensing of patents to facilitate timely, equitable
and affordable access to them, consistent with the provisions of relevant
international treaties including the provisions of the TRIPS agreement and
the flexibilities as confirmed by the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS
Agreement and Public Health.”

Ellen 't Hoen, a lawyer and director of research group Medicines Law &
Policy, told Devex that more non-state actors, such as industry and
research institutes, are expected to join the Costa Rican initiative before
May 29, while the WHA resolution is only between states.

't Hoen argued the platform proposal is significant “because while we hear
political leaders who are now pledging vast amounts of money to the
development of new vaccines and other health products urge that these
products should be ‘global public goods,’ none has proposed how to achieve
this. The COVID-19 [technology platform] will be a vehicle to make it

‘t Hoen said she was optimistic that the Costa Rican initiative would be
successful, but that “the obstacles lie with politicians that do not have
the guts to support the proposal because they fear it may upset the

About the authors

Vince Chadwick

Vince Chadwick is the Brussels Correspondent for Devex. He covers the EU
institutions, member states, and European civil society. A law graduate
from Melbourne, Australia, he was social affairs reporter for The Age
newspaper, before moving to Europe in 2013. He covered breaking news, the
arts and public policy across the continent, including as a reporter and
editor at POLITICO Europe.

Jenny Lei Ravelo at JennyLeiRavelo

Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers
global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization,
and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to
Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in
the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific
journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

More information about the Ip-health mailing list