Why aren't the UK and Germany following the USA, China and Russian lead in suspending patent rights for covid-19 at the WTO? [closed]

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The Politicus
Oct 15, 2021 10:57 PM 0 Answers
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The WTO intellectual property council is refusing to suspend patent rights in the case of covid-19 vaccine. This refusal has been spearheaded by the Germany and a number of wealthy European nations, including the UK and Switzerland. This despite being petitioned by a hundred other member states. The original petition was initiated by South Africa and India.

Given that covid-19 has lead to a global estimate of 3.8 million deaths, the case for a suspension of patent rights here seems entirely reasonable.

The USA, under the Biden adminstration, has already said in May this year, that it would patent rights in this case. Russia and China have already agreed to do so. Moreover, the European Parliament has voted to waive in June this year due to the support of Socialists, Demicrats, EFA/Greens, leftists and a group of liberal MEPs. This has put pressure on the executive, the European Commission, but they have refused to budge, instead submitting an alternative plan that used existing WTO rules.

In fact, a significant step forward had been been made by the WTO back in June when they proceeded to a "text based" procedure. This means that the WTO has gone beyond people making speeches in meetings to actually going through the text of policy line-by-line. One reported hurdle is that the initial petition required the waiver to hold during the length of the pandemic whilst now a clause is being inserted that there would be a three year period. Some are arguing that this is too short, and others, too long. Obviously the simplest and best solution is that the waiver remains outstanding during the entirety of the pandemic. But of course, this only covers this pandemic.

  1. Why is the UK and Germany holding out?

  2. Has the WTO suspended patent rights in the case of earlier global pandemics, say for example, the AIDS crisis?

  3. Has a general patent suspension been mooted for vaccines in the case of future global pandemics?

The third part of the question is important since we are waiting a year and a half after the beginning of a global pandemic for a suspension of patent rights for a vaccine with the consequent number of deaths. This of course is important in the possible future scenario of a much more virulent pandemic where a much heavier death toll is easily envisaged. For e ample, the Spanish flu pandemic in the aftermath of WWI is estimated to have killed fifty million and infected a third of the worlds population then, around 500 million. Extrapolated to today, that would kill 200 million with 2 billion infected.

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  • October 15, 2021