World Health Assembly (WHA)

Research Paper 129, March 2021

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.

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Document de Recherche 121, Janvier 2021

Les réformes de l’Organisation mondiale de la Santé a l’époque de COVID-19

Par Germán Velásquez

Tout au long de ses 70 ans d’histoire, l’OMS a connu plusieurs réformes dirigées par plusieurs Directeurs généraux, tels que Halfdan Mahler à la Conférence d’Almaty sur les soins de santé primaires, en 1978, Gro Harlem Brundtland avec son appel à « tendre la main au secteur privé », en 1998, et Margaret Chan avec son débat inachevé sur le rôle des «acteurs non étatiques », en 2012. Une fois de plus, la crise sanitaire de 2020 a mis en évidence la fragilité de l’organisation et a révélé que l’OMS ne dispose pas des instruments et mécanismes juridiques nécessaires pour mettre en œuvre ses normes et lignes directrices, et que son financement n’est pas durable et adéquat pour répondre au défi de la COVID-19. Ce document cherche à identifier les principaux problèmes rencontrés par l’OMS et les mesures nécessaires qu’une réforme de l’Organisation devrait prendre.

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Research Paper 124, November 2020

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.

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Documento de Investigación 121, Noviembre 2020

Las reformas de la Organización Mundial de la Salud en la época de COVID-19

Por Germán Velásquez

A lo largo de sus 70 años de historia la OMS ha pasado por varias reformas lideradas por varios directores generales, como Halfdan Mahler en la Conferencia de Alma ata sobre la atención primaria de salud, 1978, Gro Harlem Brundtland con su « reach out to the private sector » 1998, Margaret Chan con su inconcluso debate sobre el rol de « los autores no estatales » 2012 . Una vez mas, y de forma contundente la crisis sanitaria del 2020 pone en evidencia la fragilidad de la Organización y nos revela que la OMS no tiene los instrumentos y mecanismos legales necesarios para aplicar sus normas y orientaciones y que su manera de financiamiento no es sostenible y adecuada para responder al desafío de la COVID-19. Este documento trata de identificar cuales son los problemas principales de que sufre la OMS y cuales serian las medidas necesarias que una reforma de la Organización tendría que abordar.

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Statement, November 2020

South Centre Statement to the WHA 73 Session

Item 13

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that, despite the magnitude of the global health challenges it has to face, the WHO is currently unable to fully enforce its directives, norms and standards. It also shows that its funding is neither sustainable nor adequate to respond effectively to current and future global health crises. Overreliance on voluntary targeted funding puts at risk its capacity to operate as the global agency responsible for public health. These are some of the main challenges facing the WHO today.

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Research Paper 121, November 2020

The World Health Organization Reforms in the Time of COVID-19  

By Germán Velásquez

During its 70-year history, the World Health Organization (WHO) has undergone various reforms led by several Directors-General, including Halfdan Mahler at the Almaty Conference on primary health care in 1978, Gro Harlem Brundtland with her “reach out to the private sector” in 1998, and Margaret Chan with her unfinished debate on the role of “non-state actors” in 2012. The organization’s fragility is once again being highlighted, as the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that WHO does not have the legal instruments and mechanisms necessary to enforce its standards and guidelines, and that its funding is not sustainable and adequate to respond to the challenge. This paper seeks to identify the main problems faced by WHO and the necessary measures that a reform of the organization would have to take.

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Document de Recherche 100, Septembre 2020

Médicaments et propriété intellectuelle: 10 ans de la stratégie mondiale de l’OMS

Par Dr. Germán Velásquez

Les négociations du Groupe de travail intergouvernemental sur la santé publique, l’innovation et la propriété intellectuelle connu sous le nom de “IGWG” (2006-2008), menées par les Etats Membres de l’OMS, sont le résultat d’une impasse à l’Assemblée mondiale de la santé du 6 décembre 2006 où les Etats Membres n’ont pu parvenir à un accord sur les 60 recommandations du rapport” Santé publique, innovation et propriété intellectuelle “soumis la même année par un groupe d’experts désigné par le Directeur général de l’OMS. Le résultat de ces négociations devint la “Stratégie mondiale et Plan d’action pour la santé publique, l’innovation et la propriété intellectuelle” (GSPOA), approuvé par l’Assemblée mondiale de la santé en 2008. Un des objectifs de la Stratégie mondiale élaboré par l’IGWG était de réformer en profondeur le système d’innovation pharmaceutique, en raison de son incapacité à produire des médicaments abordables contre les maladies qui affligent une grande partie de la population du monde vivant dans les pays en développement. Les droits de propriété intellectuelle (PI) imposés par l’Accord sur les aspects des droits de propriété intellectuelle liés au commerce (ADPIC) et les accords commerciaux pourraient devenir des principaux obstacles à l’accès aux médicaments. Le GSPOA a fait une analyse critique de cette réalité et a mené à la recherche de nouvelles solutions à ce problème. Dix ans après l’approbation du GSPOA, les résultats restent incertains et médiocres.

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Policy Brief 81, July 2020

The UN General Assembly Resolutions on COVID-19: Solemn Assurances for Access to Health Technologies without an Action Plan

By Nirmalya Syam

The United Nations (UN) has the mandate under the Charter of the United Nations to promote solutions to international health problems, such as the global COVID-19 pandemic. While the UN secretariat, led by the Secretary-General, has undertaken a number of initiatives in response to COVID-19, member State initiatives in the UN has so far been limited to two resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly. Member States are currently negotiating an omnibus resolution of the General Assembly on COVID-19.  This policy brief analyzes the extent to which the General Assembly addresses the issue of timely, equitable and affordable access to health technologies, particularly for developing countries who have greater vulnerability to COVID-19. The adopted resolutions make very broad pledges for global solidarity but lack specific commitments to guide actions by member States. The omnibus resolution currently under negotiation should provide specific guidance to member States on actions to be taken based on the principles of solidarity and multilateral cooperation in diverse aspects impacted by COVID-19.

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SouthViews No. 200, 16 June 2020

Making Covid-19 Medical Products Affordable: Voluntary Patent Pool and TRIPS Flexibilities

By Sudip Chaudhuri

The proposal of Costa Rica to create a voluntary pool mechanism for medical products and technologies for COVID-19 has evoked huge interest and optimism. The World Health Organization (WHO) and Costa Rica have followed it up through a Solidarity Call emphasizing the need for voluntary licensing on non-exclusive basis to the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP). The success of a voluntary pool critically depends on the willingness of the patentees to join the pool. In a public health crisis, boundaries of public policy must not be determined by the patentees. MPP will work much better if the patentees are compelled or induced to join the pool. International cooperation is important in this regard. Highlighting the virtues of voluntary measures and promoting MPP without adequate emphasis on the use of compulsory licensing and other TRIPS flexibilities, actually weakens the MPP. In the light of the experience of MPP, the basic objective of this paper is to analyze to what extent voluntary pool mechanisms can be relied upon to make COVID-19 medical products affordable and accessible. It is important to appreciate the achievements of MPP. But the constraints under which it operates, and its limitations must also be kept in mind.

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Statement, May 2020

Message from the South Centre at the launch of the “Solidarity Call To Action” by the President of Costa Rica and the Director-General of the WHO

The architecture for access to medicines and vaccines, which is already complex to manage in normal times, requires even more structured actions in times of a pandemic by the scale of the demand and the urgency in meeting it. This call for solidarity to bring together the technologies and treatments related to COVID 19 is part of the necessary solution. It complements other available instruments for States to facilitate access to prevention and treatment for the population, including through the use of the flexibilities of the WTO TRIPS Agreement.

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Policy Brief 78, May 2020

The 73rd World Health Assembly and Resolution on COVID-19: Quest of Global Solidarity for Equitable Access to Health Products

By Nirmalya Syam, Mirza Alas and Vitor Ido

The annual meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organization (WHO) held virtually on 18-19 May 2020 discussed the global response to COVID-19 and adopted Resolution WHA73.1 on “COVID-19 Response”. The Resolution reaffirms the role of WHO as the directing and coordinating authority on international health work and it recognizes that all countries should have timely and affordable access to diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines and vaccines as well as to essential health technologies and equipment to respond to COVID-19. However, the Resolution does not define concrete actions to address the pandemic. Though the Resolution makes a commitment of ensuring access to medical products, vaccines and equipment for all countries in a timely manner, there are no concrete actions defined.  In order to ensure global equitable access, WHO Members should make full use of the flexibilities of the Agreement on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)  and also enhance transparency of costs of research and development (R&D), openness and sharing of data, tools and technologies, and build more capacity through technology transfer.

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Compilation of Extracts: Selected Country Statements during 73rd WHA

Compilation of Extracts from Selected Country Statements during 73rd World Health Assembly supporting Access to Health Products on COVID-19

The compilation below was done on the basis of published statements on the WHO website (https://apps.who.int/gb/statements/WHA73/) and the speeches delivered orally for those delegations which have not submitted their statements. This is a non-official document for information only.

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