WTO proposal to waive COVID vaccine IP rights puts pandemic response at risk

Following the release of a draft text for the WTO-led waiver on IP for COVID-19 vaccines, EFPIA calls on governments across Europe and around the world to urgently rethink discussions on a COVID vaccine waiver and instead focus on the real barriers to global vaccine equity.
Commenting on its release, EFPIA’s Director General, Nathalie Moll said “The draft proposal from the WTO completely undermines the very research-ecosystem that gave us vaccines to protect citizens against COVID-19. It seeks to solve a vaccine production issue that no longer exists, while at the same time, diverts attention and urgently needed effort away from the real barriers to global vaccine equity.”
Since it was first proposed in 2020, the lack of international consensus, immediate concerns over the effectiveness and negative impact of the proposal meant it was soon overtaken by events. Industry increased capacity to be able to produce over 1 billion doses a month and continuous investment in manufacturing together with 371 licensing agreements meant reaching the milestone of 12 billion doses by January 2022.

The COVAX facility, established by the UN and other partners to support the distribution of vaccines to the developing world, has indicated it has more available doses than have been requested by the countries it was designed to support. Similarly, in a recently published statement, the Africa CDC suggested that some donations of vaccine doses should be paused as countries were struggling to vaccinate the population fast enough.

It is now widely accepted that the issue is not producing doses but the capacity to get those doses into the arms of citizens in lower-middle and low-income countries.
Since the onset of the COVID-19, our only route to address the devastating human and economic cost of the pandemic was through medical innovation. Innovation built on intellectual property rights. Now our collective focus should be on ensuring that people get access to that innovation, supporting healthcare system capacity and infrastructure rather than jeopardizing the very research eco-system that provided the only solutions to COVID-19 and where our hopes of tackling future pandemics are likely to rest.