Australian legal professionals tell Morrison govt to support suspension of patents for COVID-19 pandemic

June 9, 2021: The Morrison Coalition government has been urged by 156 Australian lawyers and legal academics to support the proposed suspension of patents on COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and equipment, as the Prime Minister takes part in the G7 deliberations on this issue.

In an Open Letter organised by La Trobe academic Dr Julia Dehm, the signatories said: “We write as Australian lawyers and legal scholars to urge the Australian government to show global and regional leadership to ensure increased global production and more equitable distribution of the tools to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, we call on the Australian government to support the temporary TRIPS waiver at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in order to remove legal barriers to production of and access to medical tools (including vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics).

“The longer it takes for the global population to be vaccinated and achieve herd immunity, the more likely it is that further COVID-19 outbreaks will threaten Australia’s relative security and prosperity. Approximately 11 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines are needed to vaccinate 70% of the world’s population and achieve population-level or herd immunity. To date only approximately 1.2 billion vaccine doses have been administered. Based on current trajectories, mass immunisation in poorer countries could take until 2024 or longer. …

“It is profoundly urgent that the world acts now to ensure more vaccines are made in order to save lives and livelihoods. Alongside, promoting greater sharing of vaccines technologies and know-how through the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) supporting this waiver is a critical way to facilitate the global recovery from this pandemic. We therefore call on the Australian government to publicly support the TRIPS waiver, not just for vaccines, but for all medical tools necessary to prevent, contain and treat COVID-19”.

Dr Julia Dehm was interviewed by SBS news for a media conference on June 7 at which the letter was sent to the government.