Covid medicine monopolies waiver can accelerate global vaccine rollout: major reports

October 11, 2021: Two major reports have exposed the failings of the current system of global vaccine production and distribution, recommending both increased emergency donations of vaccines and the waiver of intellectual property (IP) rights at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to enable production of cheap vaccines in low-income countries.

The Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) report “COVID-19 Vaccine Redistribution to Save Lives Now” says that the proposed WTO TRIPS waiver is an opportunity to improve vaccine production:

World leaders must support the TRIPS waiver to remove intellectual property (IP) barriers to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests and facilitate the scale-up of vaccine production, and urgently advance text-based negotiations to ensure the waiver can be adopted and implemented as soon as possible.”

The MSF report goes on to detail the failings of global cooperation, the insufficiencies of the COVAX vaccine donation program, the profiteering of pharmaceutical industries, and the wasting of millions of vaccines on booster doses and expired shots.

The report recommends that high-income governments like Australia should:

“Support efforts to increase production and supply of COVID-19 vaccines in neglected regions. High income governments should support existing global initiatives like the WHO COVID19 mRNA Vaccine Technology Transfer Hub and the WTO TRIPS waiver to remove IP barriers on COVID-19 medical tools.”

In Australia, a report authored by the End COVID For All campaign, “A Shot of Hope: Australia’s role in vaccinating the World”, has welcomed Australia’s announced support of the waiver of medicines monopolies, and noted that if the TRIPS waiver is adopted, low-income countries would be provided with “an expeditious way to remove key intellectual property (IP) barriers and legal risks in the pandemic and facilitate the scale-up vaccine production.”

“IP rights waivers will play an important role over the medium term in producing vaccines at sufficient scale to vaccinate the world. Many of the vaccines which have been developed have been the result of partnerships between universities and pharmaceutical companies, supported by government funding.”

The report says that waiving IP rights will make it easier to increase global production capacity and build the technology and know-how required to produce complex medicines such as mRNA vaccines.

Speaking about the End COVID For All report on ABC Radio National Breakfast, Reverend Tim Costello said:

“Profits can never go before people. The lifting of TRIPS – which Australia has belatedly come on board and said we agree to it (meaning you can’t simply hold your patents and make money, but you have to share it) – is going to be really critical to getting to 90% of the world vaccinated by the end of next year.”

  • Click here to read the full MSF Access report.
  • Click here to read the full End COVID For All report.