WHO backs Indian proposal to ensure universal access to Covid vaccine

The WHO had previously warned against “vaccine nationalism”, but a report published by Oxfam fanned the concerns of developing countries after it found that a group of wealthy nations representing only 13 per cent of the global population had already bought over 51 per cent of the available stocks of potential  vaccines.

The World Health Organisation has backed a proposal by India and South Africa to waive international property rights on health advances against Covid-19, amid fears that countries’ competing efforts on this front could give rise to “vaccine nationalism”.

The proposal, first tabled by the two nations at the World Trade Organisation, has met with resistance from a number of developed countries.

“The WHO welcomes South Africa’s and India’s recent proposal to WTO to ease international and intellectual property agreements on Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and tests in order to make the tools available to all who need them at an affordable cost,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on Twitter.

“Ending the pandemic starts with collaboration. The WHO launched the Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (CTAP) in May, inviting countries to share data, knowledge and intellectual property on vital, life-saving health products in the fight against the coronavirus,” Ghebreyesus added.

The Oxfam report warned that in the unlikely event that all five vaccines for which supply deals have been made public are successful, nearly two-thirds of the world’s population will not get access to a vaccine until 2022.

On 15-16 October, India and South Africa’s join proposal was taken up by TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Council of WTO, where the two countries urged members to temporarily waive rules like patent protections that could delay the global rollout of a vaccine.

The developed countries and blocs that rejected the proposal included the US, the EU, Canada, Japan, the UK, Australia and Switzerland,  while it was supported by a number of African group countries and developing Asian nations like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal.

Several countries including China, Turkey, the Philippines and Colombia requested more information. The proposal will now be discussed informally among member countries, and may be taken up again later before the end of the year.

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