MSF responds to revised proposal on TRIPS waiver submitted to WTO by sponsoring governments

News and Press Release
Originally published

Following US expression of support on 5 May, EU and other remaining opposing countries must urgently join global consensus

21 May 2021 – The governments co-sponsoring the proposal to waive intellectual property on COVID-19 medical tools have just submitted a revised proposal to the World Trade Organization (WTO). It reaffirms that the scope of the waiver should cover all medical tools – treatments, diagnostics and vaccines, as well as medical devices, protective equipment, their materials or components and their methods of manufacture needed for their production – and outlines that the duration of the waiver should be at least three years, and thereafter reviewed by the WTO General Council. MSF urges all governments to immediately move towards text-based negotiations, now that a newly revised proposal has been submitted by the co-sponsoring governments.

There is growing international consensus that this TRIPS waiver proposal should be negotiated and passed urgently. COVID-19 continues to ravage countries across the globe, and the world has lost nearly 3.5 million people. 62 countries are now official co-sponsors of the proposal, with Indonesia, Fiji, Vanuatu and Namibia having joined just in the last several weeks. Overall, more than 100 countries support the proposal, including China and Russia.

On May 5th, the US voiced its groundbreaking support for starting text-based negotiations on a waiver. On Thursday, the EU parliament passed a resolution on HIV/AIDS that included explicit support for the TRIPS waiver proposal. The EU parliament is also expected to vote on a dedicated resolution backing the TRIPS waiver proposal in early June. So far, however, the European Commission has stalled negotiations on the proposal.

Leena Menghaney, South Asia Head, MSF Access Campaign:

“We are pleased to see the governments sponsoring the COVID-19 intellectual property waiver proposal reaffirm that the waiver aims to remove monopoly barriers for all medical tools, including medicines, diagnostic tests, vaccines and other equipment and materials needed to tackle this pandemic, for a minimum period of three years. With a frightening increase in infections and deaths in developing countries, and with potentially promising treatments in the pipeline, it is crucial that governments have every flexibility at their disposal to beat back this pandemic.

The revised proposal is aimed at ensuring that the TRIPS waiver is tailored to meet the needs of this pandemic. With the TRIPS waiver proposal having first been put forward nearly eight months ago, we cannot afford to lose any more precious time: the virus continues to claim millions of lives around the world and the vaccine rollout is glacially slow in developing countries.

Following the US’s groundbreaking expression of support for the TRIPS waiver this month, there has been a growing global consensus that this needs to happen, and happen fast. We urge the last remaining governments that keep dragging their feet, especially the EU, to urgently get behind this proposal and stop acting as though ‘business as usual’ will get us out of this pandemic.”

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