COVID-19 vaccine patents: Canada urged to support waiver


Vaccine fairness advocates are calling on the Canadian government to join the demand for patent exemptions to help the global fight against COVID-19, just as the World Trade Organization (WTO) opens high-level talks on this and other issues.

The WTO began its final ministerial conference on Sunday at its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

Ahead of the four-day conference, the organization The Council of Canadians released an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, urging the federal government to change its stance on lifting intellectual property rules for COVID-19 vaccines and other therapeutics. .

Speaking to CTV’s Your Morning on Monday, Nikolas Barry-Shaw, trade and privatization campaigner for the Council of Canadians, said the move would allow other countries to produce their own generic versions of these drugs and make them more widely available.

However, he said a handful of pharmaceutical companies have monopolized the supply of vaccines, using their position to charge sky-high prices which he says have “essentially cost almost half of humanity”.

“And so we are in a situation today where 2.7 billion people still do not have access to vaccines, and we risk repeating this situation as we begin to roll out updated vaccines to deal with new variants, and as we also begin to roll out treatments,” he said.

The question of whether to waive WTO intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines has persisted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with the pharmaceutical industry seeking to protect its innovations and health groups defense arguing that the pandemic deserves an exemption, especially for developing countries.

In 2020, India and South Africa submitted a joint proposal to suspend the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights for the duration of the pandemic.

In its open letter, the Council of Canadians says Canada is “out of step with the rest of the world” because more than 100 other countries have backed the waiver.

The administration of US President Joe Biden announced its support for the waiver a year ago, a stance criticized at the time by European Union leaders.

Canada, meanwhile, has pledged to donate excess vaccine doses through the global COVAX initiative. As of June 2, the federal government says more than 14.8 million doses have been delivered.

Barry-Shaw pointed to the billions of dollars in public funds used to develop COVID-19 vaccines, which he said are now privately owned by a handful of companies.

He also highlighted an open letter signatory, Achal Prabhala of the AccessIBSA project, who has lobbied for better access to medicines in countries including India, Brazil and South Africa.

Human Rights Watch in December 2021 highlighted a list compiled by AccessIBSA and Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, of more than 100 companies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America that have the potential to produce mRNA vaccines.

“So the idea that there are only … a few rich companies and countries that can produce these vaccines is really very self-serving and I don’t think we should really believe what these companies have to say about it” , did he declare.

With files from CTV News, The Associated Press and Reuters


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