The reported EU and USA “compromise” proposal on removing restrictions on the production and distribution of Covid-19 treatments would be worse than no deal at all. The proposal aims to supersede that tabled by India and South Africa at the World Trade Organisation 18 months ago to temporarily waive intellectual property rights protections for technologies needed to prevent, contain, or treat COVID-19. Had India and South Africa’s proposal been accepted at the time, more of the world’s population would have been vaccinated faster. There would also be fewer new pharmaceutical billionaires.
The EU-US plan puts their interests ahead of humanity’s by ducking the necessary technology transfer that would clear the path for production in many more countries and facilities around the world. Furthermore, it excludes tests and non-vaccine treatments and places onerous and complex conditions on licensing.
Vaccine apartheid continues and it kills. It prolongs the pandemic, threatening lives - vaccinated as well as unvaccinated - all over the world. 18 months since India and South Africa first proposed freeing the vaccines for their widest use, only 14.4% of people in low-income countries have received even one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
This artificial scarcity of vaccines is a result of a handful of companies that seek to control production, price, and profit. By keeping recipes and technologies under lock and key, they have pushed countries in the Global South to the back of the queue — turning access to life-saving medication into a bidding match.
To end this pandemic — and indeed, any pandemic of the future — every factory, manufacturer, scientist, and healthcare worker must be empowered to produce and deliver life-saving medication across the world.
The original waiver proposal, put forth by India and South Africa seeks to do just that. However, despite the support of over 100 countries, the governments of the European Union, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, and Singapore have successfully blocked it for well over a year.
We call on countries across the globe to reject the US-EU weakened alternative and return to the original vision put forward by India and South Africa — to build a world based on cooperation and solidarity, instead of competition and charity.