New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke at the G7 Summit on Saturday in a session titled ‘Building Back Stronger – Health’, and sought the support of the member countries to lift patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines.
In his address, PM Modi sought the support of the G7 countries for a proposal moved at the WTO by India and South Africa, for patent waiver on Covid related technologies.
“The prime minister committed India’s support for collective endeavours to improve global health governance. He sought the G7’s support for the proposal moved at the WTO by India and South Africa for a TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver on Covid related technologies,” the statement said.
India and South Africa have proposed WTO for Covid patent rules waiver
In October 2020, India and South Africa had submitted the first proposal suggesting a waiver for all WTO members on the implementation of certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement in relation to the prevention, containment, or treatment of COVID-19.
In May this year, a revised proposal was submitted by 62 co-sponsors, including India, South Africa, and Indonesia.
The agreement on TRIPS came into effect in January 1995. It is a multilateral agreement on intellectual property (IP) rights such as copyright, industrial designs, patents, and the protection of undisclosed information or trade secrets.
Why is the waiver needed?
All vaccine makers have struggled to rapidly scale up capacity. These include Pfizer, its partner BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson that have received billions of dollars in advance purchase agreements from wealthy nations. India is one of the most affected countries in the second wave of Coronavirus and though the downward trend has begun, the country is still facing a shortage of vaccine. The waiver will allow countries to manucfacture Covid vaccine within the country, thus reducing the cost of import which ramp up vaccine production.
The proposal was opposed by pharmaceutical firms and some European countries that argued the problem was US restrictions on the export of jabs and raw materials, which has led to a shortage of drugs like Remdesivir. India’s point is that the situation over the last one year, with poorer countries struggling to source treatments, makes the waiver crucial.