India, South Africa call on EU to break deadlock on Covid drugs, vax
NEW DELHI: After weeks of stalemate, India and South Africa have called on the European Union to find a solution to break the deadlock on a TRIPS waiver for Covid medicines and vaccines, instead of simply block the proposal, aimed at ensuring that people in the poor and developing countries are sufficiently protected against the pandemic.
Indian officials told TOI the EU has come to the negotiating table in recent weeks to discuss a possible outcome with sources in Geneva saying the trading bloc may agree to limit the flexibility of the patent waiver only for vaccines.
The India-South Africa proposal, which has now been supported by more than 100 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), aims to provide exemptions from patents, copyrights and other IPRs for medical devices, therapeutic products as well as vaccines. For now, the EU has suggested that vaccine manufacturers capable and ready to produce vaccines could be allowed to start production, regardless of a patent.
The WTO secretariat is eager for a solution to be found before this month’s ministerial meeting in Geneva, although details are unlikely to be finalized in the next three weeks. WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala keen to present a trade and health package at the ministerial meeting and hopes this will help garner support from countries like India to back the fisheries deal in return.
The EU with the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Japan are the only opponents to the plan to discuss the project proposed by India and South Africa. Even within the EU, only a few countries like Germany oppose the plan.
While South Africa has a “vaccination center”, it does not seem to have benefited from it, let alone the installation of mRNAs meeting the requirements of other African countries. For its part, India wants a solution to the vaccine problem to be found sooner rather than later, although officials have claimed that rising demand means developed countries at least stop blocking the supply of inputs. key issues and seek to address massive vaccine inequality.
In addition, this led the EU to suggest the use of the compulsory license route, which allows patent surrender in national emergencies, something developed countries had always opposed.
Government sources said that various options were being considered by several developing countries and that some of them might resort to the compulsory license option.