Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is backing a request made by India and South Africa to the World Trade Organization (WTO), in which they ask to waive certain intellectual property (IP) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The request asks for the WTO to allow all countries to choose to neither grant nor enforce patents and other intellectual property (IP) related to COVID-19 drugs, vaccines, diagnostics, and other technologies for the duration of the pandemic until global herd immunity is achieved.
According to MSF, since the start of the pandemic, pharmaceutical corporations have maintained their standard practice of rigid control over intellectual property rights, while pursuing secretive and monopolistic commercial deals that exclude many developing countries from benefitting.
If the waiver is granted, it will provide countries with the policy space needed to collaborate in research and development (R&D), manufacturing, scaling up, and supplying COVID-19 tools, signalling a major turning point in countries’ response to the pandemic.
MSF says the waiver is necessary because both past experiences and current actions have shown that IP poses a challenge in ensuring global equitable access to the effective tools needed in response to COVID-19, including vaccines.