U.S., EU, India, S.Africa reach consensus on COVID vaccine IP waiver -sources

  • The tentative agreement among the four World Trade Organization members still needs formal approvals from the parties before it can be considered official, the sources said.

Reuters
First Published16 Mar 2022
The text of the agreement was being circulated in Brussels, Washington, Johannesburg and New Delhi.
The text of the agreement was being circulated in Brussels, Washington, Johannesburg and New Delhi.(AFP)

The United States, European Union, India and South Africa have reached a tentative agreement on key elements of a long-sought limited intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines, sources familiar with the deal said on Tuesday.

The tentative agreement among the four World Trade Organization members still needs formal approvals from the parties before it can be considered official, the sources said.

It would apply only to patents for COVID-19 vaccines, which would be much more limited in scope than a broad proposed WTO waiver that had won backing from the United States, they said.

The tentative agreement does not include COVID-19 treatments or tests, and contains limitations that would likely exclude China from any waiver, one of the sources said.

The text of the agreement was being circulated in Brussels, Washington, Johannesburg and New Delhi, with decisions on the length of the waivers still to be resolved, the source added.

Spokespersons for the WTO and the U.S. Trade Representative's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A spokesperson for pharmaceutical industry trade group PhRMA said efforts to waive intellectual property commitments are unnecessary and harm efforts to end the pandemic. Voluntary technology transfer and partnerships have helped vaccine makers to target production of 20 billion doses in 2022, more than enough for the world, she said.

Among the biggest COVID-19 vaccine makers are Pfizer Inc, Germany's BioNTech SE, Moderna Inc and Johnson & Johnson Inc.

Politico, which first reported the tentative agreement, said the waiver would apply only to countries that exported less than 10% of global vaccine doses in 2021.

The tentative deal comes after months of negotiations over how to accelerate COVID-19 vaccine production in developing countries, where vaccination rates have lagged far behind wealthy countries.

In talks brokered by WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the United States, EU, India and South Africa broke away from negotiations with a broader group of countries late last year amid stiff opposition from countries with big pharmaceuticals sectors, including Switzerland and Britain.

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