EN NEV (AP) – The head of the World Health Organization on Friday called for a waiver of patents until the end of the coronavirus epidemic, so that vaccine stocks would rise sharply, saying the “unprecedented times” required the move.
In a press briefing, WHO President Tedros Adanom Hebrais said that countries with their own vaccine capacity should “start renouncing intellectual property rights” as required by the World Trade Organization’s special emergency provisions.
“These provisions are for use in emergencies,” Tedros said. “If now is not the time to use them, then when?” He said the WTO would soon meet with industry representatives to identify bottlenecks in production and discuss ways to address them.
The Associated Press has found factories on three continents whose owners say they can start producing hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccines in a short period of time only if they have the technical know-how. But that knowledge belongs to the big pharmaceutical companies that produced the first three vaccines that were approved by countries, including Britain, the European Union, the United States, Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca. The factories are all still waiting for answers.
Tedros praised AstraZeneca for its COVID-19 vaccine technology with companies, including the Serum Institute of India, but said “the main drawback of this approach is the lack of transparency.”
Pharmaceutical companies that have taken taxpayers’ money from the United States or Europe to vaccinate at an unprecedented rate say they are negotiating contracts with manufacturers – exclusive licensing deals on trade because they have to protect their intellectual property – secure security.
Tedros noted that despite UN-backed efforts known as COVAX, which has delivered vaccines to more than 20 countries this week, that amount is only enough to protect about 2% to 3% of each country’s population.
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