Canada’s Political Choices Restrain Vaccine Equity: The Bolivia-Biolyse Case
By Muhammad Zaheer Abbas, PhD
The COVID-19 pandemic has already claimed more than 4.6 million lives and caused significant economic harm. The Coronavirus is still circulating to cause further damage. In this context, this research paper argues that Canada’s political choices have restrained the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Part I evaluates Canada’s nationalistic approach of procuring COVID-19 vaccines more than its needs through secretly concluded pre-purchase agreements with brand-name pharmaceutical corporations as advised by a secretly born task force having clear ties with the vaccine industry. Part II examines Canada’s wavering and non-committal position on the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Waiver proposal. Canada’s confusing position of ‘not blocking’ the TRIPS Waiver while not supporting it either lacks legal clarity. Part III analyses the Bolivia-Biolyse case which highlights clear contradictions between statements and actions of the Canadian government. Since March 2021, Biolyse Pharma has been hamstrung by the first step in Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR), where a preliminary requirement is that the COVID-19 vaccine must be added to Schedule 1 of the Canadian federal Patent Act before applying for an export-oriented compulsory licence. The Bolivia-Biolyse case is important as a test case for the CAMR system. Workability of this export-oriented compulsory licensing regime is critical for low- and middle-income countries in the Global South lacking the domestic capacity to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines. The Bolivia-Biolyse case is also important as Canada has argued at the World Trade Organization (WTO) that the TRIPS Waiver is not required because the existing mechanisms are working as intended.
By Prof. Ujal Singh Bhatia
The author posits that the global public health impact of the Covid-19 pandemic along with the economic and distributional aspects of vaccines and treatments, involves a market failure without the underlying institutional safety nets for an effective, globally coordinated response. He proposes strong, self-standing institutions with clear mandates and resources to make effective interventions at three levels: political, financial and regulatory. Also, the WTO rules regarding export restrictions are at present too accommodative to allow for a quick response. For Intellectual Property, both manufacturing and licensing, and relaxation of IP rules should be considered.
Vaccination inequalities and the role of the multilateral system
By Carlos M. Correa
The COVID-19 crisis has evidenced the fragility of the multilateral system to address a global health challenge. There are multiple reasons behind it. Since donations are not enough, a global solution to the pandemic would have required concerted actions in several fronts. The author suggests that, while examining how the proposed “pandemic treaty” might contribute to a global solution in future health emergencies, immediate actions are needed.
Repensando la fabricación mundial y local de productos médicos tras el COVID-19
Por Germán Velásquez
La crisis sanitaria mundial sin precedentes provocada por la pandemia del coronavirus –COVID-19, durante el primer semestre de 2020, hace que se vuelva a plantear con especial urgencia el debate sobre la producción farmacéutica local. La crisis de COVID-19 puso de manifiesto la interdependencia en la producción mundial de medicamentos, ningún país es autosuficiente. Muchos países industrializados están tomando la decisión de repatriar o desarrollar la producción de Ingredientes Farmacéuticos Activos (API). Muchos gobiernos están empezando a hablar de soberanía farmacéutica y/o seguridad sanitaria. Si esto se hace realidad, los países en desarrollo tendrán que desarrollar y/o fortalecer la producción local de medicamentos y vacunas. La guerra para obtener la futura vacuna para COVID-19 no parece fácil con estos nuevos desarrollos.
The TRIPS waiver proposal: an urgent measure to expand access to the COVID-19 vaccines
by Henrique Zeferino de Menezes
Despite multilateral commitments and political statements of solidarity and cooperation to guarantee the availability and access to COVID-19 vaccines (and other relevant technologies for control and treatment), the scenario after the beginning of vaccination is marked by the deepening of vaccine nationalism, the concentration of inputs and vaccines production, and the uneven distribution of options of vaccine doses already approved for use. This pattern of production restrictions and unequal access will lead to an increase in international inequalities, leaving a large part of the world to have access to vaccines not until 2024. While advanced purchase agreements (APAs) among pharmaceutical companies and some developed countries are multiplying, the proposed mechanisms for voluntary licensing of technologies and the COVAX Facility do not achieve their goal of democratizing access to vaccines. In this sense, the current TRIPS (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver proposal seems to be the political and institutional response with the greatest potential to guarantee the scaling of the production of pharmaceutical inputs, allowing the adoption of a comprehensive strategy to ensure timely, sufficient, and affordable access to all technologies developed to fight COVID-19.
STATEMENT OF THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE BOARD OF THE SOUTH CENTRE, H.E. MR. THABO MBEKI, TWENTY-FIRST MEETING OF THE COUNCIL OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE MEMBER STATES OF THE SOUTH CENTRE, 11 FEBRUARY 2021
The unprecedented health, economic and social crisis that the world has faced since last year has severely hit our developing countries and undermined their efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. In some cases, the progress made over the last decade, particularly in reducing poverty, has been lost. The effects of this crisis have not been felt equally among all countries either. It has exacerbated the profound economic and social inequalities affecting the poorer countries and the most vulnerable…
Reconsidérations sur la fabrication mondiale et locale de produits médicaux après le COVID-19
Par Germán Velásquez
La crise sanitaire mondiale sans précédent provoquée par la pandémie de coronavirus (COVID-19), au cours du premier semestre 2020, ramène avec une urgence particulière la discussion sur la production pharmaceutique locale. La crise du COVID-19 a mis en évidence l’interdépendance de la production mondiale de médicaments—aucun pays n’étant autosuffisant. De nombreux pays industrialisés prennent la décision de rapatrier ou de développer la production d’ingrédients pharmaceutiques actifs (IPA). De nombreux gouvernements commencent à parler de souveraineté pharmaceutique et/ou de sécurité sanitaire. Si cela devient une réalité, les pays en développement devront développer et/ou renforcer la production locale de médicaments et de vaccins. La guerre pour obtenir le futur vaccin pour COVID-19 ne semble pas facile avec ces nouveaux développements.
Practical Implications of ‘Vaccine Nationalism’: A Short-Sighted and Risky Approach in Response to COVID-19
By Muhammad Zaheer Abbas, PhD
To end the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure a return of normalcy, an effective and safe vaccine is the best hope. The vaccine nationalism approach, adopted by some countries to gain preferential access to emerging COVID-19 vaccines, poses a threat to the fair and equitable distribution of the potential vaccines across the globe. This research paper critically evaluates the approach of vaccine nationalism and argues that this self-centred political behaviour of leaving others behind is short-sighted, potentially risky, morally indefensible, and practically inefficient in containing the pandemic. This paper highlights why it is important for national governments to support the collaborative and coordinated effort of the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility for the timely development and efficient delivery of potential COVID-19 vaccines. It concludes that an effective response to the current health and economic crisis should be guided by values of international solidarity, multilateralism, equality, and global collaboration. It proposes the adoption of an enforceable global framework to address the concerns arising from the combination of vaccine nationalism and intellectual property exclusivities.
South Centre Statement to the Ministers and Governors Meeting of The Intergovernmental Group of Twenty-Four (G24)
At the G-24 spring meeting, an important part of the discussion was about how COVID-19 could result in a setback to the fragile recovery of the world economy from the global financial crisis. Six months later, the current international discussions are about how long the pandemic will remain unchecked and how deep the world economic recession will be. Developing countries are licking their wounds and alarmed at the big financing gap between their plummeted fiscal revenue and skyrocketing financing needs for the pandemic response. The situation is dire. The world has passed the tragic milestone of losing one million lives to the pandemic. Some of the hard-won achievements made in implementing the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been reversed. Poverty and hunger will increase for the first time since the 1990s, the number of people facing starvation may double, gender and income inequality has been further widened as a result of the pandemic.
Re-thinking Global and Local Manufacturing of Medical Products After COVID-19
By Dr. Germán Velásquez
The unprecedented global health crisis caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic since the first quarter of 2020 has reopened the now-urgent discussion about the role of local pharmaceutical production in addressing the health needs in developing countries. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the interdependencies in the global production of pharmaceuticals—no country is self-sufficient. Many industrialized countries are making the decision to repatriate or initiate the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and medicines. Governments are beginning to talk about ‘pharmaceutical sovereignty’ or ‘health security’. If this becomes a reality and the production of pharmaceuticals is led by nationalistic policies, developing countries that still lack manufacturing capacity will have to start or expand the local production of pharmaceuticals, whether at the national or regional level. The war to get access to the future vaccine for COVID-19 does not look easy with these new developments.