June 10, 2021: Médecins sans Frontières has welcomed the opening of text-based negotiation at the World Trade Organisation as a major breakthrough for South Africa, India and 63 sponsoring low- and middle-income countries, supported by over 100 countries in total. The revised proposal seeks suspension of patent monopoly rights for COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and equipment during the pandemic.
World Trade Organisation
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.
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.
June 3, 2021: Californians gathered at the Consulate of Australia in San Francisco on June 2, 2021 for a vigil remembering those who have died from COVID-19 and calling on the government of Australia to support policies needed to increase global access to vaccines and treatments.
May 24, 2021: The European Parliament Development Committee voted on May 20, 2021, to call on the European Union to support the suspension of intellectual property rights in the World Trade Organisation for vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 while the pandemic lasts.
The resolution “calls for the EU to set up a clear and coherent EU global COVID-19 vaccination strategy, focusing on ensuring equal, affordable and timely access to vaccination for people in developing countries.”
May 19, 2021: US Trade Representative Katherine Tai met with South African and Indian Ministers on May 13 and 14 to discuss COVID-19 vaccine production and the waiver of World Trade Organisation intellectual property rules proposed by the two countries last October.
May 17, 2021: Unless all countries can vaccinate against COVID-19 in the next 12 months, new variants of the coronavirus are likely to force ongoing lockdowns even in countries like the USA and UK, which are rapidly vaccinating their entire populations, argued Dr Deborah Gleeson in the Canberra Times. Dr Gleeson is an associate professor in public health at La Trobe University.
May 11, 2021: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed willingness to explore a waiver of patents on COVID-19 vaccines after US President Joe Biden on May 5, 2021, promoted the plan, reversing the previous US position. France and Italy support this view, but Germany has opposed it.
May 10, 2021: The US now supports changing trade rules to speed up access to COVID-19 vaccines for all - and so should Australia!
Under current trade rules, pharmaceutical companies control access to vaccines, rich countries are at the head of the queue and most people in poor countries will not get vaccines until 2023.
The US, New Zealand and other governments are now supporting a waiver to WTO trade rules that would give quicker access to COVID-19 vaccines for all, but the Morrison government is still resisting.