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WTO accused of ‘vaccine apartheid’ — Analysis

Scores of activist groups and civil society orgs have called on the World Trade Organization to halt an upcoming meeting, insisting the body stop enforcing intellectual property laws that fuel “vaccine apartheid” around the globe.

A coalition of more than 130 groups calling itself the ‘Our World is Not for Sale Network’ penned a letter to the international trade bloc on Wednesday, saying a WTO ministerial conference set for next week should not go ahead until the organization approves a waiver on IP rights known as the TRIPS agreement. 

“The institution whose rules enforce vaccine apartheid is, unbelievably, attempting to have a meeting under conditions of vaccine apartheid, without having first resolved that apartheid by agreeing to the TRIPS waiver,”The letter stated.

To proceed under these circumstances will further erode the WTO’s legitimacy, and undermine the credibility of the new Director-General, at a time when the Organization’s credibility is already at an all time low.

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Additionally, the group claimed that there is no need for a ministerial meeting to endorse the waiver. The decision can be taken unilaterally in Geneva by the WTO General Council.

Because of ongoing pandemics around the globe, representatives from some members will not be able to travel to the meeting because they are unable. WTO “claims to be a consensus based organization,”If all the members were not present, it would be impossible to proceed with the event. “will lack any pretense of legitimacy,”Addition of the letter

Although the idea was originally floated in India and South Africa, it was initially taken under consideration by WTO. Despite some support from the US, there has not been an international pause in Covid-related drug patents. 

READ MORE: Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property waiver ‘will not be enough’ to address inequality, WTO chief warns

Big Pharma giants have opposed the notion. In May, a federation representing the industry’s largest companies – among them Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Eli Lilly, La Roche, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson and Merck – criticized the waiver plan as the “wrong answer”Soon after US President Joe Biden supported it, the European nations rejected it. It was also rejected by some European nations, who claimed it would negate years of research and development.

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