Intellectual Property Waiver for COVID Vaccines

India and South Africa proposed for IP waiver at the World Trade Organisation in 2020. This has now been backed by the United States. The US will further negotiate at the World Trade Organisation to waive Intellectual property for COVID-19 vaccines. This will help in large scale production of COVID-19 vaccines in middle income countries.

What is Intellectual Property Waiver for COVID-19 vaccines?

IP right is a monopoly granted by a government to an inventor. It means that the others cannot copy their invention. It can be a process patent or a product patent.

The developing countries are arguing that the intellectual property is an obstacle in increasing the production of vaccines.

The production of COVID-19 vaccines in the middle-income countries has been happening through the licensing or technology transfer agreements. Thus, in order to ramp up the production of COVID-19 vaccine production, it is essential to waive off (remove) the Intellectual Property Rights for COVID-19 vaccine.

In simple terms, IPR waiver means that when a company has produced a vaccine, the others can immediately copy its composition, produce their own. By this the vaccine production will increase and also the vaccine cost will come down.

Deterrents

The pharma companies such as AstraZeneca and Pfizer have opposed the IP waiver. According to them, this might undermine public confidence in vaccine safety and might create a barrier to information sharing.

The other barriers in COVID-19 vaccine production are trade barriers, scarcity of raw materials, unwillingness of rich countries to share doses with poorer countries.

Current Scenario

100 countries of the 164 members are in favour of waiving the IP. Recently Australia and New Zealand also agreed on the waiver.

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