WTO Chief calls for decision on waiving monopolies on COVID vaccines by end February

February 7, 2022: WTO meetings held in December and January have failed to agree to waive monopoles on COVID vaccines and treatments to increase global production and address the low vaccination rates of 10 per cent or less in low income countries.

This failure of the WTO process was recognised by the WTO Director-General, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who has convened informal meetings between supporters and opponents to make progress. These meeting are ongoing,

The temporary waiver, initiated by South Africa and India, is sponsored by 65 countries and supported by over 100 of the 164 WTO member countries. It  is being blocked by the EU, led by Germany, the UK and Switzerland, which have been lobbied by their pharmaceutical industries, which are receiving tens of billions in revenue from monopoly control of the supply and price of vaccines.

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said on January 10, 2022:

“The emergence of the Omicron variant, which forced us to postpone our Twelfth Ministerial Conference, reminded us of the risks of allowing large sections of the world to remain unvaccinated. We at the WTO now have to step up urgently to do our part to reach a multilateral outcome on intellectual property and other issues so as to fully contribute to the global efforts in the fight against COVID-19.”

On January 31 2022 she repeated her call:

“We should strive to get this result out by the end of February. It will be really sad if this organization keeps talking and debating on this pandemic, and that by the time we come up with a response people will not think it relevant.”

AFTINET and other civil society groups have condemned the WTO delay as rich countries order third vaccine doses.  Only 10 per cent of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose of vaccine.

For an analysis from civil society organisation  Knowledge Ecology International ,which supports the waiver but fears  the negotiations may limit the waiver to vaccines and to certain countries, see here.