WHO calls on Security Council to address IP exemption for COVID-19 vaccines

The World Health Organization welcomed the resolution approved this Friday by the Security Council calling for a ceasefire in all armed conflicts to allow vaccination against COVID-19 in conflict zones, but said the body could do even more to help end the pandemic such as addressing the intellectual property provisions of the vaccines.

The resolution, drawn up by the United Kingdom, calls on all member states for equitable access to vaccines, including conflict zones, also calls for funding the COVAX * initiative, as well as including refugees in each country’s vaccination programs .

As reported by the British mission to the UN, the document has been co-sponsored by more than 110 countries, including the 15 members of the Security Council.

I am glad that the Security Council voted in favor of vaccine equity, But if we want practical solutions, then the intellectual property exemption has to be taken seriously, and the Security Council can do that if there is political will. Voting for equity is important and we appreciate it, but concrete steps must be taken to increase production, vaccination and end this virus as soon as possible, ”said Dr. Tedros Adhanon Gebreyesus during his bi-weekly press conference.

The WHO director explained that in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) there are provisions for sharing intellectual property, but this issue remains “the elephant in the room.” Nobody wants to talk about.

“Especially when we talk about intellectual property we see a lack of cooperation and serious resistance. To be honest, I can’t understand it. This pandemic is unprecedented and the virus has taken the entire world hostage. This kind of thing happens once every 100 years. If the provision cannot be applied now, then when?If we cannot apply provisions during difficult times and under unprecedented conditions, then when? This is serious, ”exclaimed Tedros.

Recently, India and South Africa made a proposal to the World Trade Organization to establish a provision of intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines, which would greatly reduce the cost of vaccines and allow the free flow of medicines and transfer. of knowledge and technology around the world, benefiting especially developing and middle-income countries. The proposal has been publicly endorsed by 90 countries, but it does not have the support of the European Union, for example, and it is still being studied by the WTO.

© UNICEF / Francis Kokoroko

Syringes for COVID-19 vaccination in a production plant in Spain

Other aspects of the resolution

The resolution approved by the Security Council, despite containing a strong focus on international cooperation and solidarity to combat the pandemic through equitable access to vaccines, does not mention the provisions of intellectual property.

However, the chief adviser to the World Health Organization assures that this is an important step to include populations that may not be reached by the vaccination programs that are now being implemented.

“There are health workers, older adults, and people with preconditions who are everywhere, also in countries in conflict. So this is a key part of the equitable access framework that we want (…) There are enough vaccines to reach these people in all countries, pBut the challenge is that they are distributed equitably”, Expressed Bruce Aylward during the conference.

The resolution recognizes the role of extensive immunization against COVID-19 as a global public good and calls for funding for the WHO Tool Accelerator and its COVAX mechanism, while inviting developed economies and others who can, to donate doses of vaccines to low- and middle-income countries and countries in need.

In addition, it calls for full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access, without delay, to facilitate vaccination against COVID-19, and for the protection of humanitarian and medical personnel and civil infrastructure that is essential for the delivery of humanitarian aid.

It also requests the General secretary to report on the implementation of the resolution and states that this should include a full assessment of impediments to vaccine accessibility and the COVID-19 response in countries in situations of armed conflict and complex humanitarian emergencies.

“The resolution also generates support for COVAX, through which the United Kingdom is providing more than one billion doses of vaccines for the most vulnerable people around the world, because we need a global solution to a global pandemic,” said publicly the British Chancellor Dominic Raab.

© UNICEF/Krishnan

UNICEF employees in India prepare to export a shipment of COVAX vaccines.

Rich countries continue to undermine the COVAX initiative

On Wednesday, Ghana became the first country outside of India to receive doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from the COVAX facility. Côte d’Ivoire received its first doses as well, and they will be shipped to more countries in the coming days and weeks, as WHO moves towards the goal of starting vaccination in all countries within the first 100 days of the year.

However, despite the Council resolution approved this Friday, Dr. Tedros denounced that the countries continue to undermine the COVAX effort.

“We have advanced. But that progress is fragile. We need to accelerate the supply and distribution of vaccines, and we cannot do so if some countries continue to approach the manufacturers that are producing vaccines that COVAX has, ”Tedros reiterated in a complaint made in recent weeks.

He also recalled that such actions undermine COVAX and deprive health workers and vulnerable people around the world of life-saving vaccines.

“I understand very well that all governments have an obligation to protect their own people. But the best way to do that is by suppressing the virus everywhere at the same time. It is also important to remember that while vaccines are a very powerful tool, they are not the only tool. We still need to accelerate the delivery of rapid diagnostics, oxygen and dexamethasone, ”he warned.

* COVAX is the WHO initiative for equitable and timely access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide. COVAX supports the development of manufacturing capabilities and the purchase of supplies, in advance, so that 2 billion doses can be distributed fairly by the end of 2021.

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