The People’s Vaccine
In October 2020, South Africa and India made a joint proposal to temporarily waive certain obligations under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) until the COVID-19 emergency is over. The waiver would mean WTO member states would not have to grant or enforce patents and other intellectual property rights covering COVID-19 drugs, vaccines, diagnostics, and other technologies such as masks and ventilators.
Little progress has been made in WTO discussions even though over 100 countries support the waiver. It’s time for Canada to step up.
In March 2022 a compromise proposal was put forward, but there are significant flaws in this proposal that will limit its impact. First of all, the compromise would only cover vaccines, not tests or treatments. It also only addresses patents, not other intellectual property barriers like clinical trial results or industrial design.
People’s Lives Before Profit
As it stands now, vaccine technology and knowledge are being treated as private property by pharmaceutical corporations, despite much of this research being paid for by over $100 billions of taxpayers’ money. As communities across the world struggle to adapt to the “new normal” , it’s business as usual for pharmaceutical corporations. With their WTO-protected exclusive rights and monopolies, pharmaceutical companies are able to charge higher prices and inhibit the generic competition demonstrated time and again as key to bringing and keeping prices down, particularly for low- and middle-income countries. The waiver compromise, by not including treatments and diagnostics, could allow similar situation to unfold with respect to life-saving treatments.
Everyone, everywhere needs out of this pandemic as quickly as possible. Canada must be part of the global effort to save lives—not an obstacle.
The initial proposal at the WTO to temporarily waive certain TRIPS Agreement restrictions would help break down barriers to scaling up the manufacture and supply of lifesaving COVID-19 medical tools across the world. Canada has maintained that it has not rejected this proposal. But Canada has also not said yes.
We call on the Canadian government to publicly reject the compromise proposal, and support the initial waiver proposal.
The federal government must live up to its commitment to work constructively to find a consensus-based waiver text at the WTO that ensures that vaccines, treatments and other pandemic-related products are treated as global public goods available to all.
The federal government can also take steps to authorize the domestic manufacturing of generic COVID-19 vaccines through Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR). To make this happen, we’re calling on the federal government to add COVID-19 vaccines to Schedule 1 of the Patent Act so that Canadian manufacturers are able to produce generic COVID-19 vaccines under CAMR.
Help us spread the word. Use our tool below to write your Member of Parliament and let them know how important this issue is to you. This letter is also cc’d to the Ministers of Health, Foreign Affairs, and International Trade.