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Indian branch of the People’s Vaccine Alliance seeks intellectual property waiver on COVID-19 vaccines

The People’s Vaccine Alliance in India has asked the Ministry of Trade and Industry to push the World Trade Organization (WTO) to relinquish all forms of intellectual property on the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of the General Council meeting of the body which should be held in June.

People’s Vaccine Alliance, a global coalition of over 90 organizations and networks, through a letter urged India and South Africa to reject the latest negotiated draft consensus document for the agreed COVID-19 vaccine patent waiver between the US, EU, India and South Africa on Tuesday.

Health experts, however, welcomed the efforts made by the respective national governments and the WTO waiver for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and also highlighted several shortcomings in the proposed provisions. The proposed deal largely reiterates existing flexibilities and narrows the scope of the agreement from a complete waiver of intellectual property on all medical technologies for the duration of the pandemic, to only access to vaccines.

“More than 100 countries around the world have looked to India‘s leadership at the WTO to protect their aspirations for a complete waiver of all intellectual property over medical technologies for the duration of the pandemic,” Anjela said. Taneja, a member of the People’s Vaccine Alliance in India.

“Instead, this agreement only applies to patents and not to copyrights, trademarks and diagnostics. Access to trade secrets is essential for the rapid production of vaccines at an affordable price. Now is the time for India to continue to show the leadership it has shown so far and deliver a truly popular vaccine to the world,” Taneja said.

The agreement defers a decision on intellectual property for treatments and diagnostics that are equally important for saving lives. Intellectual property barriers are likely higher for treatment, with only 427 of 5,293 COVID-19 patent filings relating to vaccines; indeed, 92% were not about vaccines. Removing intellectual property barriers for treatments, tests and other medical technologies such as genomic monitoring will have an even faster impact via generics compared to vaccines.

The vaccine waiver further limits “eligible members” to developing countries that exported less than 10% of global exports of COVID-19 vaccine doses in 2021. This means that many countries with significant manufacturing capacity for COVID-19 vaccines will not be eligible for the waiver. Limiting the scope of the vaccine exemption even in the third year of the pandemic is ill-conceived.

The alliance suggested that the Indian government needs to work on a few key aspects of the COVID-19 vaccine waiver to provide vaccines globally. The alliance suggested that the framework of the agreement should include therapeutics and diagnostics, that it should guarantee the waiver of all forms of intellectual property, that there should be no geographic barriers to the waiver of intellectual property and that the authorization procedure is simplified and does not require the listing of all patents or notification to the TRIPS board.

Since October 2020, the governments of India and South Africa have been at the forefront of efforts for the patent exemption of the COVID-19 vaccine at the WTO. India and South Africa had requested temporary relaxations for intellectual property, patents and other similar provisions under the WTO’s TRIPS Agreement to speed up manufacturing.

This has been backed by more than 100 low- and middle-income countries, who are asking the WTO to waive intellectual property protections on COVID-19 products during the pandemic, a move so far opposed by industry. pharmaceutical and many high-income countries. high-income countries (HICs).

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