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India slams rich nations for vaccine patent hurdle

The Times of India logo The Times of India 03-03-2021
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NEW DELHI: India has hit out at developed countries that are seeking to block its joint initiative with South Africa for patent waiver on Covid-19 vaccines and drugs and accused them of trying to protect the commercial interests of a few companies.

It has urged World Trade Organisation (WTO) members to decide on the issue quickly given the massive impact of the pandemic.

“To slow down the virus’s ability to infect new people and mutate further, we need true vaccine internationalism and Trips waiver is an effective and pragmatic way to achieve it,” India’s ambassador to the WTO Brajendra Navnit said at the general council meeting. Citing India’s initiative to supply over 36 million vaccine doses to 35 countries, he urged members to provide flexibility under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) agreement.

Navnit countered the opposition from several countries, which argued that the move will not augment manufacturing capacity, while affecting commercial interests of the patent holder.

“We would like to understand this dichotomy that if waiver will not lead to increase in manufacturing capacity, meaning, no new manufacturers will enter into production of Covid products even with the proposed waiver in place, then how will the commercial interests of existing IP holders be impacted? On the other hand, if manufacturing is going to increase significantly and thereby impacting commercial interests of IP right holders, then are we not agreeing that the final objective in the present scenario is to increase manufacturing,” he said.

He added that India and South Africa were not against intellectual property rights but were seeking the waiver due to the health emergency from the pandemic.

Citing the instance of suspension of air travel and its impact on aviation, tourism and other sectors, India argued that governments were not against the interest of these sectors. “We would like to know why commercial interests of only a few companies are so sacrosanct? If it is to preserve incentives to innovate, then such commercial loss, to the tune of few tens of billions of US dollars at the maximum, can always be compensated by further incentives,” Navnit added.

He further said the temporary waiver of certain provisions of the Trips agreement would only help in meeting the final objective of Covax by addition to the global manufacturing capacity

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