COVID-19 Pandemic

More talk, No Action – Australia fails to support WTO changes for access to COVID vaccines

March 23, 2021: Australian government failure to support changes to World Trade Organisation monopoly rules on vaccines is negating its announcements about helping low-income countries to vaccinate their populations against COVID-19, according to Dr Deborah Gleeson’s article in The Conversation.

Big Pharma plans price hikes for COVID-19 vaccines

March 22, 2021: With significant problems emerging in global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, the issue of vaccine prices is now emerging as another major problem for a fair, effective and rapid global vaccination program.

The World Trade Organisation rules give 20-year monopoly patents for medicines, which empowers a few global corporations to determine both supply and price, but these rules were never designed for a global pandemic.

Australia still blocking change to WTO rules for global vaccine equity, while Quad proposal means no extra vaccines until 2023

March 15, 2021: At the World Trade Organisation meeting held last week, Australia and six other her rich countries continued to block the South African proposal for a temporary waiver to some WTO rules supported by 100 developing countries.

Australian WTO vaccine proposal not enough to speed up access for low income countries

March 11, 2021:The Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTIINET) today criticised a World Trade Organisation communication co-sponsored by Australia and only six other countries as an alternative to the proposal by South Africa and India to temporarily waive intellectual property rights to enable more equitable global access to COVID vaccines.

Australian unions and civil society urge government to support trade rules change for equal access to vaccines

March 10, 2021: AFTINET joined other Australian civil society organisations yesterday to urge the Australian Government to support the proposal sponsored by India and South Africa to waive certain provisions of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yes, export bans on vaccines are a problem, but why is the supply of vaccines so limited?

March 8, 2021: Australians were shocked by last week’s news that the Italian government, backed by the European Union, had blocked a shipment of 250,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Australia. Dr Deborah Gleeson, Associate Professor at La Trobe University, explains in The Conversation Australia’s role as both a contributor to this problem, and a victim of it in this case. Her article was also reprinted by the ABC.

WTO debate on open access to COVID-19 vaccines intensifies, new DG proposes ‘interim solution’

March 3, 2021: The majority of more than 30 delegations speaking in the World Trade Organisation General Council on March 1, 2021, were in favour of the proposed suspension of rules under the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, for the COVID-19 pandemic period, according to a WTO official familiar with the proceedings.

Vatican backs WTO rule changes to make medicines accessible to all, as decision delayed

February 25, 2021: The World Trade Organisation has again delayed the debate and decision on the proposed suspension of intellectual property trade rules from its General Council meeting on March 1-2, to the TRIPS Council on March 10-11, 2021. Meanwhile Pope Francis, who has an ambassador to the WTO, has come out is support of the suspension.

On February 23, 2020, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the WTO, told the Council of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights:

Labour and Civil Society urge G20 to support more medicine accessibility during the COVID-19 pandemic

February 22, 2021: The World Trade Organisation will finally vote on the suspension of intellectual property rules during the COVID-19 pandemic on March 1-2, 2021. The global advisory bodies for workers and civil society to the Group of 20 rich countries is urging it to call on the WTO to support the suspension.

New WTO Director-General prioritises access to vaccines, faces challenge of waiver for WTO rules

February 17, 2021: Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, confirmed as World Trade Organisation Director-General on February 15, is making her top priority ensuring the trade body does more to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

A former special envoy for the World Health Organisation on COVID-19, she called the disparities in vaccine rates between rich and poor countries “unconscionable” and urged members to lift export restrictions on medical items.

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