Synopsis: IPR waiver will not bring instant benefits. Thus, efforts must be made to share the excess stockpiles of vaccines lying with the developed countries.
The Biden administration announced that it would support a waiver on intellectual property rights (IPR) for the production of COVID-19 vaccines.
- The original plan, for TRIPS waiver for Covid vaccines, was drafted at the WTO by India and South Africa last year.
- During the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Joe Biden made a promise to share vaccine technology with countries that needed it if he won. He was expecting the deep gap of inequality in vaccine access.
How has the world reacted to this stance?
This policy stance of US has been rejected by major EU nations and met with counter-suggestion.
- The first refusal came from Germany. They said that it would create major complications for the production of vaccines, the major pharma corporations resonated with this view.
- French President Emmanuel Macron was relatively less antagonistic to considering the proposal. However, he lashed out at the Anglo-Saxons for hindering vaccine availability globally by blocking the export of ingredients.
- There is some substance to the argument that an IPR waiver may not fully resolve the vaccine shortage issue in countries suffering the worst of the pandemic now, even if it were to become a reality.
What to do?
- Firstly, the grant of a waiver would have to be supplemented by technology transfer. It will provide the pharmaceutical manufacturers with the required trained personnel, raw materials, and high-tech equipment and production know-how.
- Secondly, after tech transfer, there must be a scientific criterion to test the safety, immunogenicity, and protective efficacy of the vaccine developed by these generic manufacturers.
- Thirdly, the effect on global supply chains for vaccine production should be inspected so major troubles might be avoided.
- Lastly, other options to instantly address vaccine shortages should be considered. Developed nations should share a considerably greater part of their vaccine stockpiles, particularly in cases where the latter exceed projected domestic needs.
- There is a rumor that Mr. Biden’s waiver announcement might be a tactic to persuade pharmaceutical companies to accept less painful measures. This includes
- sharing some of their technology willingly,
- agreeing to joint ventures to increase global production expeditiously, and
- simply producing more doses at affordable prices to donate directly to where the need is most severe, especially in India.
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