Crucial debate at World Trade Organisation on access to COVID-19 medicines– WHO Chief calls out “catastrophic moral failure”
January 19, 2021: The World Trade Organisation TRIPS Council is today debating again the proposal by India and South Africa, supported by 100 countries, to waive various intellectual property provisions on COVID technology. Big Pharma has defended its 20-year monopoly on new medicines and the MSF medicine access movement has rebutted their claims. South Africa and India began this initiative in October 2020.
On January 18, the World Health Organisation Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the WHO Executive Board, “More than 39 million doses of vaccine have now been administered in at least 49 higher-income countries. Just 25 doses have been given in one lowest-income country. Not 25 million; not 25 thousand; just 25.
“I need to be blunt: the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure – and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries”.
He warned that the safety-net for COVID-19 vaccinations in poor countries – the COVAX Facility – was also endangered by pharmaceutical manufacturers prioritising bilateral deals with rich countries.