The global humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (Medicins Sans Frontieres) said it is imperative that rich countries stop stonewalling negotiations over a temporary patent waiver for coronavirus vaccines as the ultra-contagious Delta variant ravages poor and under-protected regions. Just 1.32% of people in low-income countries have been vaccinated, compared to 50.15% of people in rich nations.
"It is outrageous to see countries blocking the TRIPS waiver that is desperately needed as an important tool to remove legal barriers and allow production to be scaled up by multiple manufacturers for critical Covid-19 drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines," Dr. Tom Ellman, director of Doctors Without Borders' Southern Africa Medical Unit, said in a statement Monday, referring to the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. "As many countries in Africa right now are reporting a high number of deaths due to the spread of new and existing variants of Covid-19," said Ellman, "these governments are in dire need of vaccines, diagnostics, oxygen, and other treatments to help save lives of critically ill patients."
He continued, "At a moment when we are in race against time to save lives and control the spread of unchecked transmission and development of new dangerous variants, pharmaceutical corporations' business-as-usual approach is intolerable," Ellman said. "With potentially promising treatments in the pipeline, opposing countries must stop filibustering the waiver proposal and support it to cover not just vaccines, but also treatments, diagnostics, and other health technologies."