US Backs COVID Jab Patents Waiver, What Next for Vaccine Equality?

To ensure there’s enough supply to vaccine demands, there is a need to amplify the manufacturing process.

2 min read
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Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and the US government backing a waiver on COVID-19 vaccine patents is just one of those crucial decisions that was much needed in this pandemic.

As it is, low- and middle-income (LMIC) countries, like India, are facing a vaccine shortage without having vaccinated even 10 percent of the population, which makes it so utterly important to ramp up vaccine production across the world.

The proposal was first floated by a group of LMICs, led by India and South Africa, at the World Trade Organisation in October 2020. They argued that such a move could speed up vaccine production, which in turn could accelerate inoculation drives. In this, they had the support of several advocacy groups, and even the WHO as well that believe that a pandemic is not the time for vaccine monopolies and profits.

Although the US and other wealthy countries had strongly opposed the move for long to protect intellectual property rights, looking at gravity of the pandemic, the Biden administration has now decided to support a temporary waiver.


But hold on! While that's certainly a good start, there's still a long way to go before we can actually see results of this decision. The US giving the green signal is a big move, but now it will have to negotiate at the WTO and secure a consensus from all 164 members, including the UK, the EU countries, Canada, Japan, Brazil, and all others that had blocked the waiver.

So what kind of roadblocks are expected on the way? If the US does manage to clear the path, what happens next? What would a patent waiver entail for COVID vaccine manufacturers and why are pharma companies opposed to the move? And most importantly, what can a complete waiver mean for India?

We speak to Leena Menghaney, a lawyer who has worked extensively on public health and works with Access Campaign at Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Achal Prabhala, coordinator of the Access IBSA project and Amitabh Behar, Chief Executive Officer of Oxfam India. Tune in!

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)


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Topics:  Pfizer   Johnson & Johnson   The Big Story 

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