IP waiver for COVID vaccines misses the mark in vaccinating the world

14 June 2022: Vaccinating the world remains a priority and proposals to weaken the intellectual property (IP) for COVID-19 vaccines are unnecessary, as this will not increase vaccination rates around the world.

This week, discussions at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Geneva, to introduce an IP waiver – known as the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver – in the “Quad compromise”, takes precious attention away from more effective actions needed to increase vaccinations in our poorest nations.

Medicines Australia CEO, Elizabeth de Somer, says only 17.8%[1] of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but there is no evidence that IP is a barrier to vaccine production or access.

“The TRIPS argument has dragged on internationally without evidence and is being used as a political football which distracts and detracts from real action that can make a real difference.

“Globally, there are enough COVID-19 vaccines to protect those who need it most, but frustratingly, this is not the reality.

“This is not a supply problem; this is a distribution problem.

“Worldwide, equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine is the best chance we have at slowing down the pandemic and saving lives.

“We now must overcome these hurdles to increase vaccination rates in low-income countries, including for our closest neighbour, Papua New Guinea, who are struggling to reach a COVID-19 vaccination rate of 3%.

“To support these efforts, the international biopharmaceutical industry has committed to supporting governments improve in-country readiness, increasing dose sharing with middle- and low-income countries and prioritising research and innovation for the next generation of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Instead of political posturing, I urge governments to tackle the real challenges to COVID-19 vaccine access and hold a serious discussion about how we can strengthen global health security together.

“Undermining the very IP framework which enabled the fastest vaccine development in history will sadly only achieve the opposite,” Ms de Somer said.

This week, Ms de Somer will join more than 3,000 international and domestic leaders in health at the BIO International Convention in San Diego, California, which coincides with the timing of the WTO Ministerial Conference. Critical topics around the intersection of science and policy – such as global vaccine equity – are expected to be addressed.

Read the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) statement about the Quad compromise at the WTO Ministerial Conference here.


For further information or media interviews, please contact:
Chrystianna Moran – 0424 995 118 / chrystianna.moran@medicinesaustralia.com.au
John Flannery – 0419 494 761 / john.flannery@medicinesaustralia.com.au

[1] https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations