WTO fails to agree to medical waiver to unlock Covid-19 vaccine supply


“The World Trade Organisation (WTO) countries failed again yesterday to agree a proposal to suspend intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines in order to boost production and fill a void in poor nations,” reported AFP (27 July 2021). SA and India have been pushing for a temporary waiver of some IP rights on vaccines and other treatments, which could allow local manufacturers to produce the shots. Members will hold an informal meeting in early September to discuss the state of play, followed by a formal meeting on 13 and 14 October this year.

Proponents argue the temporary removal of IP rights will boost production in developing countries and address the dramatic inequity in access. That notion has long met with fierce opposition from pharmaceutical giants and their host countries

Meanwhile, meetings with heads of vaccine manufacturers including J&J, Pfizer, Moderna, the makers of Russia’s Sputnik shot and Sinopharm Group last week showed that companies were interested in boosting investments in Africa. J&J is having its inoculations produced on a so-called fill/finish basis in SA by Aspen Pharmacare, whereby Aspen packages the doses using ingredients supplied by J&J. Pfizer last week signed a similar agreement with the Biovac Institute in Cape Town and Sinopharm’s doses are made in Egypt.

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