[Ip-health] Fwd: TWN Info: COVID-19 - WTO & WHO hold meet with Big Pharma on access to vaccines

Chee Yoke Ling yokeling at twnetwork.org
Wed Jul 21 18:36:06 PDT 2021


*Sorry for cross posting*

> 
> 
> Third World Network Information Service
> 
> TWN Info Service on IP and Health
> 22 July 2021
> Third World Network
> www.twn.my <https://wp.twnnews.net/sendpress/eyJpZCI6IjU2MTg2IiwicmVwb3J0IjoiMzU2NyIsInZpZXciOiJ0cmFja2VyIiwidXJsIjoiaHR0cDpcL1wvd3d3LnR3bi5teSJ9/>
> COVID-19: WTO & WHO hold meet with Big Pharma on access to vaccines
> Published in SUNS #9392 dated 22 July 2021
> 
> Geneva, 21 Jul (D. Ravi Kanth) – The heads of the World Trade Organization and the World Health Organization have convened a meeting of mainly of select countries, representatives of Big Pharma, and international organizations ostensibly to discuss how to expand and diversify manufacturing in order to promote equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, said people familiar with the development.
> 
> Despite limited success in addressing the issue of “vaccine equity”, with the developing and poorest countries bearing the brunt of the pandemic due to lack of vaccines and rising variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the WTO and the WHO seem determined to promote business-as-usual voluntary licensing and intellectual property approaches at the second high-level meeting on 21 July, said people familiar with the proceedings.
> 
> Interestingly, while the advanced countries have continued to stockpile vaccines and are showing little inclination to ensure its availability globally on equitable and affordable basis, the WTO director-general Ms Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala and the WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus have called the meeting “WTO-WHO High-Level Dialogue”, ostensibly to support practical coordination and implementation initiatives and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, including the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, the COVAX Manufacturing Task-force and the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP).
> 
> According to the organizers, the dialogue follows a high-level dialogue on “COVID-19 and Vaccine Equity: What can the WTO contribute”, held on 14 April 2021 and a WTO technical symposium on “COVID-19 supply chain and regulatory transparency” held on 29 June 2021.
> 
> The organizers also claim that it also responds to one of the recommendations of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPR) for WHO and the WTO to “convene major vaccine producing countries and manufacturers to get agreement on voluntary licensing and technology transfer arrangements for COVID-19 vaccines, including through the Medicines Patent Pool.”
> 
> However, it fails to reflect that the IPPR also recommended that “If actions do not occur within 3 months, a waiver of TRIPS intellectual property rights should come into force immediately”.
> 
> The objectives of the high-level dialogues as outlined by the organizers include (i) contributing to the discussions on expanding vaccines manufacturing capacity by mapping of COVID-19 vaccine production current and potential capacity, state of play of technology transfer and sharing initiatives, including pooling of IP, know-how, and production and supply chains bottlenecks, (ii) engaging key players from governments, the private sector, international organizations and civil society to expanding and diversifying manufacturing, including in developing countries, accelerate public-health-driven licensing, transfer of technology and know-how, strengthen regulatory systems and cooperation, and mapping current approaches, identifying best practices and reinforcing existing initiatives and (iii) to maintain momentum towards more systematic and coordinated international action, including through supporting transparency collaboration and coherence between existing and new initiatives.
> 
> Many elements of these objectives have been pursued in the last 1.5 years, with very little success. For instance, despite one of the objectives being to engage with civil society, with a few exceptions, civil society involvement has largely been excluded.
> 
> However, the performance of ACT-A, the COVAX facility and C-TAP has also failed to yield significant results.
> 
> The pharmaceutical industry has objected to participation in C-TAP while Covax has only delivered 6.8% of the targeted two billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021. Further, ACT-A has a funding gap of $16.7 billion.
> 
> According to Ms Rashmi Banga, a senior economic analyst at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), “severe funding shortage …, a pooling mechanism which is not being used by higher income countries who prefer to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies, and an opaque financing mechanism” have severely impacted the flow of vaccines to developing and least-developed countries.
> 
> She said that “a 20 percent vaccination rate is not the 60-80 percent needed to prevent transmission, and with current projections, COVAX looks more likely to deliver only 570 million doses in 2021.”
> 
> However, in view of the actual delivery of vaccines that has been realised, even that projection may be an over-estimate.
> 
> Some “vaccine-hoarding” countries, like the United States and the United Kingdom, have offered to donate their excess doses to the facility, but it remains uncertain that they will give them up any time soon when they are in the midst of their own vaccination programs and the pandemic continues with infections on the rise.
> 
> The Telegraph has reported that the Covax distribution scheme has received fewer than one percent of the roughly 530 million surplus doses pledged by wealthy countries.
> 
> It is clear that the COVAX effort would hardly make any dent in vaccination needs due to severe funding shortages, and it seems bereft of any approach to increasing vaccine manufacturing, Ms Banga argued.
> 
> At the current rate of vaccination, it will take over five years for enough of the world to be vaccinated to avoid further transmission. Five years is a long time for the virus to mutate and build resistance to currently viable vaccinations, she said.
> 
> In contrast, the global stimulus response has amounted to around US$13 trillion, but less than 1 percent of this has gone to lower-income economies, Ms Banga pointed out.
> 
> For raising funds to address the growing disparities in access to vaccines among countries, Ms Banga argued that “one potential source of income could be a Windfall Tax on the pharmaceutical industries’ pandemic profits.”
> 
> Apparently, in the United Kingdom, 53 percent of people supported the idea of an “excess profit tax” on industries who have benefited from the pandemic.
> 
> Such a policy tool, said Ms Banga, “is not a new idea, but has been used in recent history in the aftermath of major crises including World War I and II.”
> 
> Such a tax was as high as 80 percent in the United Kingdom during World War I, and 95 percent in the US during World War II.
> 
> A rate of around 70 percent on the profits from the five major COVID-19 vaccine producers would raise US$27 billion from anticipated profits – enough to fully fund the COVAX facility with some support left over, she argued.
> 
> “With a TRIPS waiver scenario, this resource could substantially fund technology transfers and upgrading facilities – a productive investment, rather than routing cash back to pharmaceutical industry shareholders,” Ms Banga emphasized.
> 
> The five major pharmaceutical companies – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Novavax and Johnson & Johnson – are expected to make US$38.5 billion in profits from sales of COVID-19 vaccines in 2021.
> 
> “These super-profits are driven by vaccine scarcity, and while some companies have claimed they will not make profit from the vaccine during the pandemic, companies have been caught charging two to three times the price for the vaccine in poorer countries compared to the cost to wealthier countries. Other companies have been accused of “bullying” governments in COVID-19 vaccine negotiations, asking some countries to put up the funds,” Ms Banga said.
> 
> Instead of treating vaccines as a global “public good”, she said that approaches aimed at treating them with “kid-gloves” will only exacerbate the current global health crisis and thereby, the economic crisis all over the world.
> 
> With the emergence of new variants and lack of access to vaccines and rising rates of deaths, the WTO director- general seems to be increasingly pushing business-as-usual initiatives, particularly the voluntary licensing and other approaches, which are part of the so-called trade and health initiative being promoted by the Ottawa Group of countries, ostensibly aimed at undermining the TRIPS waiver, said trade envoys, who asked not to be quoted.
> 
> The so-called “pragmatic approaches on intellectual property”, as suggested in the agenda for the meeting on 21 July, seem to be more of the same approaches for preserving IPRs even though they remain as major barriers to ramping-up global production of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines across countries, said trade envoys, who prefer not to be quoted.
> 
> The WTO DG seems bent on pursuing pro-Big Pharma initiatives, perhaps aimed at distracting from any solution on concluding an agreement on the TRIPS waiver as the WTO’s response to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, said a person, who asked not to be quoted.
> 
> TRIPS COUNCIL MEETING
> 
> Meanwhile, the co-sponsors of the TRIPS waiver proposal on 20 July remained optimistic about finding an early outcome on the waiver despite the hurdles being created by a few countries, including the European Union.
> 
> The co-sponsors suggested that the waiver offers the best route for addressing the widening disparities in affordable access to vaccines and the need to suspend certain provisions of the WTO’s TRIPS Agreement relating to copyrights, industrial designs, patents, and protection of undisclosed information for ramping-up production of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines, said people familiar with the development.
> 
> At the TRIPS Council meeting on 20 July, members agreed to the chair’s revised proposal on the state of the negotiations that would now be sent to the General Council for adoption.
> 
> The proposal states:
> 
> “At the meeting of the TRIPS Council on 15-16 October 2020, India and South Africa introduced document IP/C/W/669, requesting a waiver from certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19, which had been circulated on 2 October 2020 and has since been co-sponsored by the delegations of Kenya, Eswatini, Mozambique, Pakistan, Bolivia, Venezuela, Mongolia, Zimbabwe, Egypt, the African Group, the LDC Group, the Maldives, Fiji, Namibia, Vanuatu, Indonesia and Jordan.
> 
> “Since the introduction of the document, discussions took place in various formal and informal TRIPS Council meetings. Delegations exchanged views, asked questions, sought clarifications and provided replies, clarifications, and information, including through documents IP/C/W/670, IP/C/W/671, IP/C/W/672, IP/C/W/673 and IP/C/W/674, on the waiver request.
> 
> “Since the last status report to the General Council on 5-6 May 2021, the co-sponsors issued a revised proposal on 21 May 2021, which was circulated in document IP/C/W/669/Rev.1. The revised waiver request was presented at an informal open-ended meeting of the Council on 31 May, and introduced at its formal meeting on 8-9 June 2021. Following the arrangement of a text-based process, discussions continued in small-group consultations, at informal open-ended meetings on 17 and 30 June, and 6 and 14 July , and at a formal meeting of the Council on 20 July.
> 
> “In the context of the text-based process, delegations held focused discussions on the topics of “scope”, both from the perspective of products and of IP rights, on “duration”, “implementation” and on protection of undisclosed information. Delegations engaged positively and their detailed substantive exchanges helped clarify various aspects and nuances of positions. While delegations remain committed to the common goal of providing timely and secure access to high-quality, safe, efficacious and affordable vaccines and medicines for all, disagreement persists on the fundamental question of whether a waiver is the appropriate and most effective way to address the shortage and inequitable distribution of and access to vaccines and other COVID-related products.
> 
> “In addition, a proposal for a draft General Council declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health in the circumstances of a pandemic, issued by the European Union on 21 June 2021 and circulated in IP/C/W/681, has also been discussed in those meetings. Delegations exchanged views, asked questions, sought clarifications and provided replies, clarifications, and information. Disagreement persists on the fundamental question of whether this proposal is the appropriate and most effective way to address the shortage and inequitable distribution of and access to vaccines and other COVID-related products.
> 
> “This means that the TRIPS Council has not yet completed its consideration of the revised waiver request. The TRIPS Council will therefore continue its consideration of the revised waiver request, including through small-group consultations and informal open-ended meetings, and report back to the General Council as stipulated in Article IX:3 of the Marrakesh Agreement.
> 
> “In addition, the TRIPS Council will also continue in the same manner its consideration of the other related proposals by Members.”
> 
> 
> All our content may be republished or reused for free, except where otherwise noted.
> This site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License <https://wp.twnnews.net/sendpress/eyJpZCI6IjU2MTg2IiwicmVwb3J0IjoiMzU2NyIsInZpZXciOiJ0cmFja2VyIiwidXJsIjoiaHR0cDpcL1wvY3JlYXRpdmVjb21tb25zLm9yZ1wvbGljZW5zZXNcL2J5LW5jLXNhXC80LjBcLyJ9/>.
> Third World Network, 131 Jalan Macalister, 10400, Penang, Malaysia.
> tel: +60 4 2266728 / 2266159  email: twn at twnetwork.org <mailto:twn at twnetwork.org> web: www.twn.my <http://www.twn.my/>



More information about the Ip-health mailing list