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Joe Biden urged not to accept India and South African proposal at WTO on COVID-19

India, South Africa and other countries are presenting a proposal at the World Trade Organization to waive all intellectual property rights for any innovation related to COVID-19.

March 06, 2021 / 08:40 AM IST
Source: Reuters

Source: Reuters

Four top Republicans Senator on Friday urged US President Joe Biden not to accept a proposal by India and South Africa to the World Trade Organization to waive anti-Covid vaccine patents to boost its supply.

India, South Africa and other countries are presenting a proposal at the World Trade Organization to waive all intellectual property rights for any innovation related to COVID-19.

The proponents of this scheme argue that if we just destroy the intellectual property developed by American companies, we will suddenly have more manufacturers producing COVID-19 vaccines, the group of four Republican Senators wrote in a letter to Bien.

In the letter, Senators Mike Lee, Tom Cotton, Joni Ernst and Todd Young urged Biden to reject the upcoming proposal at the WTO. But the opposite is true.

By destroying the intellectual property of every American company that has worked on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, we would be ending the progress -- started under Operation Warp Speed -- that led to the fastest development of life-saving vaccines in history," the Senators wrote.


COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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They alleged that some countries believe that they would benefit from seizing America's intellectual property. But this is a mistake, they said. Waiving all rights to intellectual property would end the innovation pipeline and stop the development of new vaccines or boosters to address variants in the virus.

It also wouldn't increase the supply of vaccines because of the tremendous time and resources needed to build new manufacturing plants and acquire the knowhow to produce these complex medicines, they said.

Even if the waiver may temporarily result in a few copycats attempting to produce what American companies developed, it would introduce major quality control problems, the Senators said.

As a global leader and a force for good, we can do a lot to help other countries overcome the virus. But destroying our rights to intellectual property wouldn't advance our mission of fighting the virus -- it would make the problem worse, for America and for the world, they wrote.

The end of this pandemic is in sight. More than 50 million Americans have been vaccinated, and cases have declined by more than 75 percent from their recent high.

We stand ready to work with you to bring an end to this deadly crisis and urge you to take a strong stand against this scheme that would halt our progress, the Senators said.

In a statement, the US Chamber of Commerce's Global Innovation Policy Centre (GIPC) senior Vice president Patrick Kilbride said the proposals to waive intellectual property rights are misguided and a distraction from the real work of reinforcing supply chains and assisting countries to procure, distribute and administer vaccines to billions of the world's citizens.

Diminishing intellectual property rights would make it more difficult to quickly develop and distribute vaccines or treatments in the future pandemics the world will face, he said.

Early this week, hundreds of American civil society organizations and three top Congressmen urged Biden not to block the waiver to COVID-19 vaccines at World Trade Organization, a move they said would boost the treatment of coronavirus patients worldwide.

The COVID-19 pandemic knows no borders and the need for vaccine development and dissemination across the globe is critically important.

The TRIPS waiver raised by India and South Africa at the WTO would help the global community move forward in defeating the scourge of COVID-19 by making diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines available in developing countries, Congressman Rosa DeLauro, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee told reporters at a news conference.

The WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) requires countries to provide lengthy monopoly protections for medicines, tests and technologies used to produce them.
first published: Mar 6, 2021 08:17 am

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