Discussions on proposal to lift vaccine monopolies intensify at WTO, as experts reveal 100 companies could produce COVID-19 vaccines in developing countries

December 21, 2021: After the WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) was postponed in November, discussions on the proposal to lift vaccine patent monopolies (known as the ‘TRIPS waiver’) took place in a formal meeting of the TRIPS Council on December 16. In parallel to the Council meeting, WTO Ministers from South Africa, India, the United States and the European Union met online to discuss a way forward and find common ground.

Following the high-level meetings, the Chair of the TRIPS Council, Ambassador Dagfinn Sørli of Norway, expressed optimism and suggested that these high-level engagements should “continue and mature”, in the hope that the discussions could “contribute to unlocking the situation in the Council and allow all members to take a step forward towards developing a consensus outcome.” The Chair added that “a practical, tangible WTO response to the pandemic is needed …. If members focus on that, I also believe it is within reach”.

Some wealthy countries, however, continue blocking progress on the TRIPS waiver, including the UK, which issued a statement opposing text-based negotiations of the proposal. Responding to the UK statement, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)/Doctors Without Borders hit back at the UK position, saying: “The UK must immediately stop blocking the TRIPS waiver and support low- and middle- income countries to scale up production.”

Meanwhile, experts from Human Rights Watch, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)/Doctors Without Borders, and AccessIBSA have published a list of 100 companies that have been identified as capable of producing mRNA COVID19 vaccines in middle and low-income countries.

Source: AccessIBSA, December 2021. ©2021 Human Rights Watch

Achal Prabhala, researcher at AccessIBSA, said: “There are over 100 companies across Africa, Asia, and Latin America who have the capacity to make an mRNA vaccine. These companies can bridge the yawning inequity in mRNA vaccine supply in poor countries. All they need is for the US and German governments to end monopolies and share the valuable technology they funded and essentially created with them.”

  • To read the full list of 100 companies able to produce the mRNA vaccines, click here.
  • To read the Human Rights Watch summary of the report, click here.
  • To see the full WTO update on the TRIPS Council meeting, click here.
  • To read the MSF response to the UK statement, click here.