MSF: US must urge hold-out governments to stop blocking “TRIPS waiver”

Khayelitsha Field Hospital Activity

South Africa 2020 © Rowan Pybus/MSF

NEW YORK/GENEVA, OCTOBER 1, 2021—One year after India and South Africa proposed the “TRIPS waiver” at the World Trade Organization (WTO)—and despite US government support—a group of WTO members, including the EU, UK, Norway, and Switzerland continue to oppose and block this landmark initiative. The Biden Administration must urge these countries to help end the COVID-19 pandemic for everyone, everywhere, said the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

First introduced on October 2, 2020, the “TRIPS waiver,” which now has the support of more than 100 nations, would waive patents and other intellectual property rights on urgently needed COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, tests, and other health tools for the duration of the pandemic. This would pave the way for additional manufacturers to help increase the production and supply of these lifesaving medical tools and meet the global need.

To end this pandemic for everyone, high-income countries, including the US, must also redistribute their excess vaccine doses to low- and middle-income countries via the COVAX Facility and regional procurement mechanisms. Additionally, the US government must demand that Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna share COVID-19 mRNA vaccine technology and know-how so other able manufacturers can make additional mRNA vaccines.

Dr. Sharmila Shetty, vaccines medical advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign, said today:

“In the year that has passed since India and South Africa first tabled the landmark ‘TRIPS waiver’ in an effort to increase people’s access to COVID-19 medical tools, tragically over 3.6 million people have died from COVID-19.

“The world lost an entire year during which countless lives could have been saved and sustainable global access to COVID-19 medical tools equitably increased. A handful of governments have chosen to obstinately block the ‘TRIPS waiver’ from the beginning, and these are the same governments that have stockpiled vaccines and therapeutics to protect their own populations instead of sharing.

“If most of the world, including many countries where MSF works, continues to have only minimal access to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and tests, this pandemic will continue, new and more transmissible variants may develop, healthcare systems will buckle, and more people will suffer and die.

“The EU, UK, Norway, and Switzerland must stop obstructing the ‘TRIPS waiver’ and support the adoption of a groundbreaking effort that could increase access to COVID-19 medical tools for everyone, everywhere.”