The World Trade Organizations' general Council has come together for a two-day meeting to discuss a proposal to waive intellectual property protections on Covid-19 vaccines.
Initially, the waiver proposal was brought to the table by India and South Africa last October. However, since then approximately 100 countries have shown their support but the issue had been losing momentum as vaccine rich countries continued to block its discussion at the WTO'S Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) council, states Foreign Policy.
World health Organization chief Tedro Adhanom Ghebreyesus has recently stated that 1 in 4 people in high-income countries reportedly have been vaccinated whereas in low-income countries, the statistics have shown only 1 in 500 have received a dose.
Since Joe Biden has been elected as the president of the United States, the discussion of the waiver has been re-opened. During his campaign, when asked about distributing the vaccine technology and disregarding the patent rule, Biden reportedly said that it is "the only humane thing in the world to do."
Although the White House has been guarded around this matter as they come to their final decision, it is known that Katherine Tai, a U.S trade representative has been involved in discussions with pharmaceutical CEOs and public health advocates, trying to figure out a way forward.
Those who are against the idea of waivers have expressed that it will not be enough to make a difference and will rather discourage pharmaceutical companies from innovating in future projects. They believe that IP concerns are not the strongest obstacles in vaccine making and issues like the shortage in raw materials and the inability to produce vaccines should be prioritized over it.
Supporters of the waiver proposal claim that it would lighten the burdens of producers who are wary of the legal technicalities and help technology transfers take place more efficiently than the ones WHO's COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAO) has attempted to carry out.
Proponents also believe that pharmaceutical companies should not be given the authority to decide on vaccine technology and it's production that has been funded and made possible by public investments.
Reportedly, the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed had donated $18 billion into vaccines; the CEO of BioNTech and the company which is responsible for the technology behind the Pfizer vaccine has named the EU research and development funding for its success and the National Institutes of Health, the U.S medical research agency has played the most significant role in regards to the therapeutic effects of mRNA.
Currently, statics show that 60 percent of Americans are in favor of the Indian-South African waiver proposal and that President Biden's final decision could possibly be a reflection of that.
Biden's chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, shared his opinions on the matter arguing that even if the approval of the waiver, mass vaccination in low-income countries may be pushed back until 2022 or 2023.
"I'm telling him to get people vaccinated as quickly as you possibly can. If that means getting billions of doses from companies and getting it to the people in the low- or middle-income countries at a very, very low price that they can afford, do it, and do it now," Fauci stated. "Because if you want to start transferring technology you're going to get it to them a year and a half from now … My only concern is, I care about people getting vaccinated. However you do that, go for it, and do it now."