The People’s Vaccine
In October 2020, South Africa and India made a joint proposal to temporarily waive certain obligations under the 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.
Last week, the United States joined the 100 countries that support the waiver. It’s time for Canada to step up.
This waiver proposal is not a panacea. But with these barriers and restrictions removed, WTO member states and the scientific community can continue working on developing and distributing new diagnostics, vaccines, medicines, and medical supplies, without fear of litigation risk and trade sanctions under the TRIPS Agreement.
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 adapt to the “new normal” of the pandemic, 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.
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 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 support the waiver now.