Insistence to Respond TRIPS Council Meeting on March 11th, 2021 – at the WTO Geneva.
Jakarta, March 10th, 2021. Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ) insists the Government of Indonesia seriously fight for the TRIPS Waiver Proposal at the WTO, and the Government of Indonesia needs to demand wealthy countries by not blocking the TRIPS Waiver and agree to participate on behalf of humanity. This insistence aims to abolish vaccine access inequity for poor and developing countries in the world, as the effect of the monopolistic practice of intellectual property by major pharmaceutical companies, as well as the practice of Vaccine Nationalism by wealthy countries.
The TRIPS Waiver proposal is a proposal submitted by India and South Africa in October 2020 at the WTO to allow all countries not to implement the TRIPS Agreement which regulates patent protection, copyright, and related rights, industrial design, protection of undisclosed information, which is directly related to drugs, diagnostic tests, vaccines and other technologies regarding COVID-19 in the course of the pandemic. However, wealthy countries such as Australia, Brazil, Canada, European Union, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, the UK, and the US, still hold back their support for the proposal considering that they have traditionally been supporters of the interests of pharmaceutical companies through the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) monopoly system.
The Executive Director of IGJ, Rachmi Hertanti, explained that almost all health products in handling COVID-19 such as test kits, diagnostics, masks, medicines, vaccines, and ventilators are protected under patents, trade secrets and industrial designs regulated in the TRIPS Agreement. This is what ultimately causes the handling of COVID-19 leading to a business-as-usual approach rather than a humanitarian issue.
“The TRIPS Waiver proposal is the right solution in order to be able to open up fair and open access for all people in the world to vaccines and all medical needs for handling COVID-19. TRIPS Waiver will stop the practice of vaccine nationalism in wealthy countries and pharmaceutical companies which have an impact on Inequity of Vaccine Access, especially in poor and developing countries. The European Union limits the distribution of vaccines to be stopped,” stressed Rachmi.
Furthermore, Rachmi explained that TRIPS Waiver will open up more massive vaccine production space. This currently causes by the demand for the COVID-19 vaccine is much higher than the supply. This limited supply is due to the control of production and distribution exercised by major pharmaceutical companies through the intellectual property monopoly.
“In a way of sending billions of vaccines to the world, the production capacity must definitely be massive and expanded. Sharing intellectual property is for sure the key, thus opening up opportunities for other countries or producers to produce vaccines. Moreover, this will open up opportunities for Indonesia to become a capable global vaccine producer if the TRIPS Waiver is agreed.”
The suggestion of the WTO Director-General is counter-productive
In the midst of the TRIPS Waiver discussion, which has yet to find its solution, the new Director General of the WTO, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, even made an offer that was highly counterproductive. During her inauguration speech, Okonjo-Iweala conveyed the idea of a “third way” to improve access “through facilitating technology transfer within a multilateral regulatory framework” and by pharmaceutical companies entering into licensing agreements to enable other producers to produce vaccines and other products.
In regards to this “Third Way” Rachmi emphasized that what is needed now is to abolish the monopoly of intellectual property and not a compromise solution that still opens up space for pharmaceutical companies to control the production and distribution of vaccines in the name of profit.
“Thus far, pharmaceutical companies do not want to share their knowledge, including control over their licenses. Even with the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator initiated by WHO. The voluntary licensing option offered by the Director-General of WTO is ultra-counterproductive and still provides exclusive rights to pharmaceutical companies,” Rachmi emphasized.
This licensing practice by pharmaceutical companies has limited manufacturing production capacity by exclusively selecting which producers and countries can produce vaccines. Furthermore, in a report issued by the Doctor Without Borders (MSF), it is stated that this exclusive practice is as what AstraZeneca has done which limits its license to the Serum Institute of India (SII). Moreover, SII is prohibited from supplying middle to upper-income and high-income countries, the most lucrative markets for AstraZeneca. In fact, despite receiving at least US$ 70.5 million in public funding to develop Remdesivir (a candidate medicine for the treatment of COVID-19), the pharmaceutical company Gilead has signed secret bilateral deals with generic companies of its choice that exclude nearly half of the world’s population from license area.
“This will once again hamper large-scale vaccine production in order to meet the worldwide supply of vaccines. Therefore, at the TRIPS Council Meeting on March 11th, 2021, the TRIPS Waiver Proposal must remain a single option that cannot be replaced with a proposal that is very compromising with business interests,” Rachmi concluded.
For information, IGJ has also sent letters of insistence to several embassies of European Union Member States not to blockade the TRIPS Waiver agreement. The letters are attached*****
Rachmi Hertanti, Direktur Eksekutif IGJ: 0817-4985180
Agung Prakoso, Advocacy IP Monopoly, IGJ: 0857-88730007
For further and detailed information regarding issues of Vaccine & TRIPS Waiver can be accessed on IGJ Briefing Paper on the following link: https://igj.or.id/hentikan-monopoli-haki-terhadap-covid19-laksanakan-trips-waiver/