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Vaccine patents: WTO argues about possible release

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Vaccine patents: WTO argues about possible release


Economy Corona vaccines

The dispute over vaccine patents is entering the next round

Status: 05:01 | Reading time: 4 minutes Queue in front of the vaccination center in Bangkok, Thailand. In many countries, the supply of corona vaccines is still sluggish Source: dpa Within the WTO, there is a struggle for the release of property rights to vaccines and their technologies in order to close the gap in the global vaccine supply. But the new federal government is also sticking to its no – for one important reason. Corona has already thwarted the plans of the World Trade Organization (WTO) twice: The Ministerial Conference, the most important decision-making body of the WTO, had to be canceled several times due to the pandemic, most recently shortly before the turn of the year. The WTO originally wanted to discuss a particularly controversial issue: the release of certain patents on corona vaccines with the aim of overcoming the discrepancy in the global supply of vaccines against Covid-19. This week, the Geneva organization launched a new attempt to advance the topic of the so-called TRIPS waiver. The abbreviation TRIPS stands for trade-related intellectual property rights and is one of the pillars of the World Trade Organization alongside the GATT and GATS free trade agreements. Read also The informal online meeting of the 164 WTO nations was not able to change the stalemate. The governments have not even been able to agree on a date for a new ministerial conference, as the WTO confirmed when asked by WELT AM SONNTAG. The enormous gap in the global vaccine supply is beyond question: while quadruple vaccinations against Corona are even being discussed in the West, according to the World Health Organization only around nine percent of the population in Africa have been fully vaccinated so far. According to some states, the oligopoly position of the leading corona vaccine manufacturers is also to blame, above all Pfizer, Biontech and Moderna with their modern mRNA vaccines, which have primarily concluded contracts with the leading industrialized nations. All three manufacturers have announced an update of their corona vaccines for March.

In the dispute over the patents, the fronts have hardened

“We urgently need to step up our efforts at the WTO to reach an international agreement on patent rights and other issues and thus advance the global fight against Covid-19,” warned Nigerian WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Week. The emergence of the omicron virus variant has made it clear how urgent it is to vaccinate the whole world. In view of the sluggish vaccination rates in parts of the world, India and South Africa have long been demanding that certain intellectual property rights for vaccines and technologies should be suspended so that emerging and developing countries can produce the vaccines themselves. The EU, but also Great Britain and Switzerland, reject this. The USA under President Joe Biden, on the other hand, has signaled that it wants to agree to a temporary relaxation of intellectual property rights. This is also sharply criticized by US Democrats. “The US gains nothing by supporting such a waiver, but they have a lot to lose,” former US Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, who served in Barack Obama’s cabinet from 2009 to 2011, told WELT AM SONNTAG. Also read Apparently, under the pressure of increasing numbers of infections, the US government felt obliged to set an example. Unlike the USA, however, the EU correctly recognized that such a release would in no way ensure more vaccinations. “It would be more helpful to try to remove real barriers, such as the lack of vaccination infrastructure,” says Locke. A forced technology transfer would also inhibit investment in research: “If companies can be arbitrarily forced to disclose their trade secrets, it will be almost impossible for biotechnology companies to generate enough investments for the necessary financing in the future.” His advice to Brussels: the EU should continue to block the project.

The traffic light coalition follows the course of the previous government

That was also the line taken by the previous federal government, which always resolutely rejected such demands. As can now be seen, the traffic light coalition is following this course. When asked by WELT AM SONNTAG, the Federal Ministry of Justice announced that the waiver proposed by India and South Africa was “not a measure that could actually effectively improve global access to vaccines and therapeutics”. Patent protection is also “a key element” for promoting innovation in vaccine development and has helped to combat the Covid 19 pandemic. In the fight against the pandemic, an international approach and “pragmatic and effective measures” are required. However, two years after the start of the pandemic, there is still no consensus within the WTO on what that could actually be. Here you will find third-party content. In order to interact with or display third-party content, we need your consent. Enable external content


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