A Response to COVID-19 and Beyond: Expanding African Capacity in Vaccine Production
By Carlos M. Correa
The unequal global distribution of vaccines against the deadly COVID-19 virus has cast a spotlight on the lack of access to vaccines on the African continent, and the vulnerability that such a lack places on both the economies of African nations and the health of their people. Various initiatives have been launched to overcome the dependence of African nations on vaccines produced elsewhere. If implemented in timely and effective ways, those initiatives will contribute to the diversification of African economies and strengthen the capacity of nations on the continent to address their public health needs during pandemics and at other times. While establishing a viable vaccine industry on the continent presents serious challenges, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) can provide the framework for leveraging economies of scale to stimulate the production of needed vaccines across the region.
Summary of the intervention by Carlos Correa, Executive Director of the South Centre,at the UN General Assembly – Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response Multi-Stakeholder Hearing, New York, May 9th, 2023
The response to COVID-19 revealed serious shortcomings in the multilateral system. Despite solemn declarations, it was unable to ensure equity in addressing its health, economic and social impacts. See a summary of the South Centre’s intervention at the UN General Assembly – Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response Multi-Stakeholder Hearing below.
Submission by the South Centre to the USITC hearing on Covid-19 diagnostics and therapeutics
India, South Africa and co-sponsors made a proposal for a waiver to certain provisions of the provisions of the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in March 2020. In June 2022, the WTO Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement provided a partial waiver to obligations in Article 31, namely an exception to the 31.f export restrictions, in relation to patents for Covid-19 vaccines. No decision has yet been made with respect to diagnostics and therapeutics for Covid-19.
In this context, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) requested the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) to prepare a report on Covid-19 diagnostics and therapeutics.
Read below the submission by the South Centre to the USITC investigation: COVID-19 Diagnostics and Therapeutics: Supply, Demand, and TRIPS Agreement Flexibilities (Inv. No. 332-596).
El debate sobre la exención de los derechos de propiedad intelectual en tiempos de pandemia
El 11 de marzo de 2020 la Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS) comunicó que la enfermedad por coronavirus de 2019 (COVID-19), podía ser considerada una pandemia. A medida que el contagio de la enfermedad aumentaba se hizo evidente la insuficiencia de los recursos sanitarios, vacunas y métodos de diagnóstico y tratamiento para enfrentar con éxito la pandemia. En este contexto, en la Organización Mundial del Comercio (OMC) se reavivó la tensión entre las reglas de propiedad intelectual y la salud pública.
Como consecuencia de ello, el 2 de octubre de 2020, Sudáfrica e India, presentaron ante la OMC una propuesta para que ciertas disposiciones del Acuerdo sobre los ADPIC no resultaran de aplicación para cualquier producto o procedimiento destinado a la prevención, contención y tratamiento de la COVID-19. Esta propuesta de exención (waiver), contó con la férrea oposición de la Unión Europea que presentó una propuesta alternativa. Para intentar llegar a un acuerdo se formó una comisión cuadrilateral conformada por Sudáfrica, India, la Unión Europea y EEUU. Finalmente, luego de dos años de negociaciones y en el marco de la 12ª Conferencia Ministerial (MC12) celebrada en Ginebra el 17 de junio de 2022, se aprobó un proyecto de exención de los derechos de propiedad intelectual que dista mucho de la propuesta original de 2020.
El presente trabajo, analiza detalladamente el proceso de discusión – en torno al tema del “waiver” – dado en el Consejo de los ADPIC de la OMC: estudia los antecedentes de la propuesta de exención, analiza los documentos presentados por las partes en pugna, revisa los argumentos esgrimidos a favor y en contra del waiver, los instrumentos propuestos y, asimismo, muestra cómo se desenvolvieron las distintas posiciones hasta alcanzar el acuerdo final.
Autores: Alejandra Aoun, Juan Correa, Martín A. Cortese, Vanesa Lowenstein, Sandra C. Negro, Guillermo E. Vidaurreta
Analysis of COVID-Related Patents for Antibodies and Vaccines
By Kausalya Santhanam
This paper provides an analysis of patents covering selected antibodies and vaccines used in the treatment or prevention of COVID-19. The aim of the report is to support national patent offices and interested parties in developing countries with information that can serve as guidance for the examination of the claims contained in relevant patents or patent applications. The antibody combination considered for the patent analysis in this paper are Casirivimab and Imdevimab. The vaccines considered for the patent analysis are mRNA-1273, Sputnik, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine (AZD1222). The analysis was completed in May 2022.
South Centre Statement on the extension of the TRIPS waiver for diagnostics and therapeutics for COVID-19
Developing countries should consider options that can be implemented now to deal with IP barriers to expand production and access to COVID-19 therapeutics and diagnostics, while the so far elusive decision on whether to extend a TRIPS waiver to cover these products is taken by WTO.
WHO proposed instrument on pandemics: the Conceptual Zero Draft needs substantial improvement to address global public health needs
We welcome the discussions in the WHO on a new instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. While we appreciate the preparation and sharing with WHO members of the Conceptual Zero Draft (hereinafter ‘the Draft’), we note that more work is needed to address the insufficiency of the tools at the disposal of the WHO that became evident with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Left on Our Own: COVID-19, TRIPS-Plus Free Trade Agreements, and the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health
By Melissa Omino and Joanna Kahumbu
The cusp of the twentieth anniversary of the WTO Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health (hereafter “the Declaration”) was marked by a global pandemic. The Declaration and its iteration in the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (hereafter “TRIPS”) Article 31 bis, should have helped to contain the devastation in least developed and developing countries. The reality is that the pandemic is still ongoing, and the Global South led by South Africa and India are seeking a waiver of provisions to the TRIPS Agreement to ensure that COVID-19 therapeutics, diagnostics, and vaccines reach their citizens in order to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus (“the TRIPS waiver”). These citizens are especially vulnerable because of their inability to access vaccines due to their prices and supply shortages caused by the refusal to share manufacturing technology. The Doha Declaration aimed at reaffirming the interpretation and implementation of the TRIPS Agreement to support WTO members’ right to protect public health and promote access to medicines. However, the operationalization of the Declaration via Article 31bis of TRIPS has been cumbersome and procedurally difficult to navigate. This paper argues that the current iteration of the Doha Declaration within TRIPS fails to meet the objectives of the Declaration as demonstrated by the need for a further waiver of the TRIPS agreement. It also attempts to “reimagine” Article 31 bis in light of the TRIPS waiver from the position of the Global South to make it more equitable and practicable and maintain the spirit of the Declaration.
The WTO TRIPS Decision on COVID-19 Vaccines: What is Needed to Implement it?
By Carlos M. Correa and Nirmalya Syam
The 12th WTO Ministerial Conference adopted a Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement on 17 June 2022. This partially concluded almost two years of protracted discussions in response to a proposal by India and South Africa for a waiver from certain obligations under the TRIPS Agreement for health products and technologies for the prevention, treatment and containment of COVID-19. The adopted Decision only waives the obligation under article 31 (f) of the TRIPS Agreement. Developing country WTO members are now allowed to export any proportion of vaccines, including ingredients and processes, necessary for the COVID-19 pandemic that are manufactured under a compulsory license or government use authorization to other developing countries. It also contains some clarifications of relevant TRIPS provisions, while introducing a number of conditionalities that are not present in the TRIPS Agreement. This paper examines the object and scope of the Decision, the requirements established for its use, and the required actions to be taken by WTO members to implement it.
COVID-19 Vaccines as Global Public Goods: between life and profit
By Katiuska King Mantilla and César Carranza Barona
In the context of a health emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic, the global availability of and access to vaccines are imperative. This research paper provides an analysis from the perspective of international political economy, of the financing of COVID-19 vaccines and of the market strategies adopted by some of the companies that developed them. It notes that the development of vaccines was supported by substantial public funding from countries that later received preferential access to those vaccines through advance purchases. Despite such public support, the vaccines were not deemed as public goods but remained under the control of their developers.