Patent waiver for Covid-19 vaccines finally approved

30 June 2022

Patent waiver for Covid-19 vaccines finally approved

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has finally approved the patent waiver that will tear down barriers mounted by intellectual property restrictions to greater production of Covid-19 vaccines and their equitable distribution among nations.

India and South Africa submitted the proposal for a temporary waiver on IP rights to the WTO in October 2020. It called for a waiver on obligations under the TRIPS Agreement in a bid to increase drug and vaccine production globally, address the inequality in vaccine distribution and help fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

For Rahul Govind, a partner at illuminIP in New Delhi, the approval of the patent waiver is a welcome step.

“Until now, only pharmaceutical companies which own patents were authorized to manufacture Covid vaccines. However, now the know-how can be shared and without embargo,” said Govind. “Once the vaccine recipe is shared, any company which possesses the required technology and infrastructure can produce vaccines.”

This will lead to cheaper and more generic versions of Covid-19  vaccines in the market. As such, the problem of vaccine shortage among developing countries will be addressed.

“Further, WTO has also allowed export of the vaccine which will enable countries such as India, which has the required manufacturing infrastructure, to manufacture and export vaccines without seeking permission from the original maker and also export to other needy countries. No doubt this will enable equal opportunity to countries over access to the affordable vaccines,” Govind added.

Under this scenario, will the patent waiver still be useful?

“We should also not forget that Covid-19 has still not been eradicated. People, despite being vaccinated, get infected though symptoms are not fatal and in very few cases, require hospitalization. Hence despite the fact that cases have gone down, our aim should be to vaccinate the entire population of the world and the same is more important when borders are open now,” explained Govind.

However, he said it will take months to develop the processes and commercialize them. This means that despite the patent waiver, the world may have to wait some time to see its actual effect.

The approved waiver is applicable only on vaccines. WTO discussions regarding the waiver on therapeutics and diagnostics have been postponed for six months.

“As the pandemic is not over yet, WTO should redouble their efforts and commence talks on therapeutics and diagnostics as soon as possible,” said Govind.

The waiver, which has been revised since its submission, is backed by more than 100 countries. Among these are the United States, France, China, Russia and Australia.



Espie Angelica A. de Leon

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