The Rich Prevail Over the Poor
The 164-member World Trade Organization (WTO) has implicitly rubber-stamped the widely-condemned policy of “vaccine apartheid” which has discriminated against the world’s poorer nations, mostly in Africa and Asia, depriving them of any wide-ranging intellectual property rights.
Max Lawson, Co-Chair of the People’s Vaccine Alliance and Head of Inequality Policy at Oxfam, said at the conclusion of the WTO’s ministerial meeting last week: “The conduct of rich countries at the WTO has been utterly shameful. The European Union has blocked anything that resembles a meaningful intellectual property waiver. The UK and Switzerland have used negotiations to twist the knife and make any text even worse. And the US has sat silently in negotiations with red lines designed to limit the impact of any agreement.”
This so-called compromise, he argued, largely reiterates developing countries’ existing rights to override patents in certain circumstances. And it tries to restrict even that limited right to countries which do not already have capacity to produce COVID-19 vaccines.Lawson added, “This is absolutely not the broad intellectual property waiver the world desperately needs to ensure access to vaccines and treatments for everyone, everywhere. The EU, UK, US, and Switzerland blocked that text.”
“Put simply, it is a technocratic fudge aimed at saving reputations, not lives.”