50,000 Australians come out in support of TRIPS Waiver

June 7, 2020: Ahead of a World Trade Organisation meeting on June 8-9, a group of civil society organisations including AFTINET, Amnesty International Australia, GetUp!, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA,  Public Services International and the Humanism Project gathered outside the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Sydney to hand over more than 50,000 signatures in support of fair access for vaccines for all.

The Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement is an international treaty which regulates intellectual property rights.

In October 2020, India and South Africa have proposed a temporary waiver on provisions of the TRIPS Agreement due to the ongoing COVID-19 emergency. This waiver would entail the removal of barriers to supply, which are large obstacles to the ‘prevention, containment and treatment’ of COVID-19.

Tim O’Connor, Amnesty International Australia Campaigns Manager, said: “Amnesty International is calling on the Australian government to stop blocking the TRIPs waiver and not put big pharma ahead of people. Australia has a vital role to play in the equal access of vaccines, particularly in our region. We want Australia to be the good global citizen when it comes to promoting and defending human rights, especially in the time of COVID-19.”

Paul Oosting, GetUp National Director, said: “It’s abhorrent that Australia is one of twelve member states blocking this lifesaving proposal. Over 50,000 people have signed petitions to demand the Morrison Government stand with people and not profits for big pharmaceutical companies. The COVID-19 vaccine waiver is more than just intellectual property – it’s a matter of life and death.”

Dr Patricia Ranald, convener of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network said: “WTO rules for 20-year patent monopolies give control of vaccines and treatments to  pharmaceutical companies, delaying access for most people in low-income countries until 2023. Millions will die while pharma companies make billions. The temporary waiver of WTO rules will increase global production and provide faster access for all.”

Kate Lee, APHEDA Executive Officer said: “With more than 3.7 million deaths already, Australia must show leadership to save lives. The world needs the TRIPS waiver now to make vaccines accessible and affordable to all. The Australian government must stop blocking the waiver and support the revised proposal from South Africa and India!”.

Dr Haroon Kasim from the Humanism Project said: “We urge the Australian government to recognise their human rights obligations, recognise the right to health and life for all, stop blocking a consensus decision on TRIPS waiver and support developing states to more readily protect themselves and their citizens from this raging pandemic. The right to health and life should be the most important consideration in these decisions.”

Michael Whaites, Manager - Public Health Organising Team, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association said: “Nurses and Midwives in Australia have looked on in horror at the situation their colleagues in India and elsewhere have faced during this pandemic.  Many still have no access to vaccines or appropriate personal protective equipment while the pandemic rages.  Since the temporary waiver on trade rules for COVID diagnostics, vaccines and treatments was proposed by India and South Africa in October last year the Morrison government has been objecting and delaying the process at the WTO.  Health workers in Australia are demanding that “enough is enough”, it’s time for the Morrison government to stop dragging their feet on this critical global public health measure. It’s well past time that Scott Morrison put people over profit.”