MSF responds to revised proposal on TRIPS waiver

Lebanon - COVID-19 Vaccination

Lebanon 2021 © Mohamad Cheblak/MSF

NEW YORK, MAY 21, 2021—As governments co-sponsoring the proposal to waive intellectual property (IP) on COVID-19 medical tools have just submitted a revised proposal to the World Trade Organization, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontierès (MSF) urges all governments to immediately move towards text-based negotiations. The revised proposal reaffirms that the scope of the waiver should cover all medical tools, including treatments, diagnostics, and vaccines, as well as medical devices, protective equipment, their materials or components, and information about how they are manufactured. It also outlines that the duration of the waiver should be at least three years.

As the United States voiced its groundbreaking support earlier this month for starting text-based negotiations, 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 Thursday, the European Union 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 of MSF’s Access Campaign, said of the revised proposal:

“We are pleased to see the governments sponsoring the COVID-19 IP 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’ 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.”