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A temporary waiver of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights

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An article written by  Parsa Erfani, Agnes Binagwaho, Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, Muhammad Yunus, Paul Farmer, and Vanessa Kerry has been published in the British Medical Journal, on 3rd August 2021 titled ” Intellectual property waiver for covid-19 vaccines will advance global health equity” which focuses on the importance of a temporary IP waiver to reach global needs. 

The article states the current vaccination figures show that the percentage of people in high-income countries who have been vaccinated is 46% while 20% in middle-income countries and 0.9% in low-income countries. This is largely due to the acquisition of doses by high-income countries in large quantities as well as production is restricted to a small number of manufacturers. The article states that a clear scarcity of supply exists, and this exists due to intellectual property (IP) protection which currently restricts production and access to the vaccines.

Donor-based models have not worked in reaching the highest risk population, due to underfunding and vaccine scarcity. To meet the current global needs it is necessary to also have the production of vaccines in LMICs. A temporary waiver, will enable more manufacturers and result in yielding doses faster.

The arguments against the waiver include, that LMICs have limited capacity to produce such complex vaccines, that a move like this could stifle further biomedical innovation and funding into such research, as there would be no return on investment and cause bottlenecks in the supply chain. However, data does not support this.

Sharing of the technology and the technical know-how is crucial in helping to expand production to meet global needs. There are LMICs that have production capacity for complex COVID-19 vaccine production. With the IP waiver, and sharing of all vaccine-related knowledge and technology as well as planning, bottlenecks in raw materials can be avoided. The waiver would be temporary thus only affecting the COVID-19 vaccine, and many of the costs of research and development have been recouped. There has also been publicly funded research that laid the groundwork for the vaccine. Keeping all things in mind, this seems to be the best way forward in meeting global needs.

Now, it is important that countries need to agree on a temporary IP waiver, in order to ensure the world’s population can receive the vaccinations, achieving global herd immunity and facilitating global health equity.

The link to the full article is at this link https://www.bmj.com/content/374/bmj.n1837.full

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