WHO strongly supports TRIPS waiver, not time to worry about patents, profits: Chief Scientist Swaminathan
Geneva [Switzerland], May 11 World Health Organisation (WHO) Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan on Monday (local time) said that the global health body strongly believes that Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver to COVID-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) should be done.
In an exclusive interview with ANI, Swaminathan said: “WHO strongly believes that the TRIPS waiver that has been proposed by India and South Africa should be done. DG Tedros has often spoken about this. This is not the time to worry about patents and profits amid the pandemic.”
In October last year, India and South Africa, along with 57 members of WTO proposed a waiver from certain provisions of the TRIPS agreement for prevention, containment, and treatment of COVID-19.
Trade experts say WTO negotiations on a waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines could take months – provided they can overcome significant opposition from some member countries. Pointing that this time is crucial, Dr Swaminath said: “So yes, we would like to see that happening very quickly at the WTO that needs to be also accompanied by a technology transfer because vaccines are complex things to manufacture and it will take a long time for a company to learn from scratch if a patent is not implemented.”
Scientists like Swaminathan have repeatedly said that the only way to combat this pandemic successfully is through a massive global vaccination campaign on a scale and timeline never before undertaken. This requires the production of effective tools and technologies to fight COVID-19 at scale and coordinated global distribution efforts.
Although the WHO Chief Scientist did not predict the timeline of the waiver due to negotiations, she suggested that there is no need to wait for it and to start the technology transfer in a voluntary way.
“If a company decides that they will share their know-how and their expertise and their protocols for making a vaccine that has nothing whatsoever to stop them from including a licensing deal and that is what we are trying to promote we are saying that there are many ways of doing this,” she told ANI.
Speaking on vaccine equity across the world, she said that this global strategy should be one for solidarity and collaboration.
“It should start getting better in the second half of the year when vaccines are ramped up, but in the next couple of months, supply is less than demand and so we have to use the supplies wisely and prioritise the vaccinations of high priority groups, such as health workers and those with underlying conditions,” she said.
India is currently dealing with a devastating second COVID-19 wave that has swept through the nation, crushing the country’s health infrastructure and overburdening frontline medical workers.