NEW YORK, JULY 14, 2021—As President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet tomorrow with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, waiving intellectual property restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and tests must be at the top of their agenda in order to help bring the pandemic under control, said Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
Despite the fact that COVID-19 has killed more than 4 million people across the globe and new variants are gaining ground, world leaders are failing to act with a sense of urgency to expand access to lifesaving vaccines and other medical tools. Germany continues to encourage the European Union to block a temporary waiver of the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or “TRIPS waiver”, from advancing at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The proposed TRIPS waiver—which was put forward by India and South Africa and is now supported by more than 100 nations, including the US—could enable the wider manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines and other products to ensure that billions of people worldwide have sufficient access to them.
MSF is urging the Biden Administration to use its leverage on multiple fronts to help end this pandemic for everyone, everywhere. We are calling on the US to share surplus vaccine doses with COVAX, the global initiative for delivering vaccines equitably based on public health needs. Additionally, the US should demand that pharmaceutical corporations share the technology and information needed to scale up manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. The US should also renew its support for the TRIPS waiver and commit to suspending intellectual property restrictions on other medical tools for COVID-19, including treatments for people who fall ill and diagnostics to help curb the spread of the disease.
Avril Benoît, executive director of MSF-USA, said in advance of the Biden-Merkel meeting:
"The US decision in May to support a waiver of intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines was a giant step forward, but that effort now appears to have stalled. President Biden should use this summit meeting with Chancellor Merkel to urge Germany to stop blocking the TRIPS waiver.
"The US should also expand its support for the waiver to apply not only to vaccines, but also to cover treatments, diagnostics, and other essential medical tools for COVID-19. World leaders have repeatedly proclaimed that COVID-19 products should be treated as ‘global public goods’ for the duration of the pandemic, but so far have not delivered on these lofty statements.
“While life in the US and Germany seems to be inching closer to normal, MSF teams around the world are seeing the impacts of a still raging pandemic. New and more contagious variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 continue to spread, and some health systems are being pushed to the brink of collapse. Billions of people remain unprotected and are living in fear, as only 1 percent of the global COVID-19 vaccine supply has gone to low-income countries. Treatments and diagnostic tests also remain out of reach for most people in the places where we work.
“The US and more than 100 nations support the WTO waiver because they understand that extraordinary global health challenges require extraordinary global solutions. We must use every tool at our disposal to end this pandemic quickly and stop the rise of new variants.”