Why WHO’s Pandemic treaty is a smokescreen

News: A Special session of the World Health Assembly was held recently to negotiate the pandemic treaty. The proposal for a new pandemic treaty is mainly championed by the European Union. 

Read more about this treaty here

What is the current mechanism to deal with any International health emergencies? 

Currently, Global public health responses are guided by International Health Regulations (IHR). 

IHR was adopted in 1969 and revised in 2005 following the SARS outbreak, there has been recognition of the fact that it needs further revision and that’s why this new treaty is being negotiated.  

Why this treaty is not a sufficient step to fight present or future pandemics?

Treaty only provides recommendations for tackling a particular issue while ignoring that the countries specially in the south require resources and capacities to reach the public health targets. 

There is no focus on bridging these deficiencies or capacity inequities. That rich countries have given out far more booster shots in four months than poor countries have given out doses all year, reflects this capacity inequity b/w global North and the South.

Any global effort must ensure distributed capacities so that countries and regions in the south have sovereignty over essential medicines, materials, manufacturing and supply chains. 

How has the North responded to this capacity inequity?

There is clear lack of political will on the part of developed countries to share essential technology and manufacturing know-how and waive intellectual property barriers. An example of this is that WHO mRNA vaccine tech transfer hub in South Africa has been stunted by the refusal of the US and Germany

They have been unable to convince their corporations to share public funded technology and IP with this initiative.  

What is a TRIPS waiver and how will it help to counter this inequity?

Read about TRIPS here. 

Rich countries support the free market ideology but have been largely restricting the TRIPS waiver. 

What India can do to advance the cause for TRIPS waiver?

India can show leadership by sharing its technical know-how and manufacturing capacities.  

It must also resolve inconsistencies that exist in its policy positions between various ministries, while also simultaneously supporting the TRIPS waiver. 

What is the way forward?

Public health interests should be placed before corporate interests.  

There is need for consistent efforts to address deficiencies in global solidarity and improve access to essential lifesaving technologies. 

Source: This post is based on the article Why WHO’s Pandemic treaty is a smokescreen” published in Times of India on 21st Dec 2021 

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