PSI Asia Pacific is organised a Briefing Session on Wednesday, 2 December at 11AM Bangkok time, to help affiliates understand the arguments countries are making in relation to the proposal. Watch the recording in Bangla, in Nepalese.
A Covid recovery will require all countries and all people to have access to an affordable vaccine. Yet the monopoly powers given to pharmaceutical companies by the World Trade Organisation’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement will allow companies to make extravagant profits and charge prices that could be prohibitive for most of the world.
Workers and the public have worked tirelessly to ensure we overcome this crisis. They will be required to deliver the vaccine. If we are truly “all in this together”, we should not allow one section of society (Big Pharma) profiteer whilst everyone else sacrifices.
India, South Africa, Pakistan and others have made a formal proposal to the World Trade Organisation for a “Waiver from Certain Provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for the Prevention, Containment and Treatment of COVID-19”.
Without the waiver, pharmaceutical companies will be able to prevent other manufacturers from producing COVID19 vaccines and medicines, impeding scaling up of production. WTO rules ensure big pharma has a monopoly over the market and can dictate prices even to governments, which will consume public finances required for a healthy recovery.
Through the Doha Declaration on Public Health, governments recognised that intellectual property rights can be waived in cases of serious public health crises. Experts advise that the flexibilities contained in the TRIPS agreement will be ineffective unless all governments agree to the waiver. The World Health Organization, UN Human Rights Experts, UNITAID and UNAIDS have supported the waiver.
Trade unions can play a key role in supporting this proposal by ensuring national governments are aware that health-workers and other public services’ workers expect them to support the waiver.
- Labour-20 and Civil-20 Joint Statement, “Supporting the TRIPS waiver is essential to end the COVID-19 pandemic”, February 2021
- Statement and materials by PSI “Universal access to Covid-19 vaccine is possible if governments agree to WTO waiver“
- Statement by UNI Global Union “UNI joins call for vaccinations for all; suspension of WTO rule restricting COVID treatment access for millions”, 16 February 2021
- Statement by IndustriALL Global Union “WTO members should ensure access to affordable medicines”, 25 November 2020
- Statement by the European Public Service Union, “Trade rules must not impede access to COVID-19 vaccines and medical supplies”, 4 February 2021
- European Trade Union Confederation “Statement on Covid vaccines: people must come before profit”, 17 February 2021
- MSF Policy Brief on the TRIPS Waiver, including a Q&A
- PHM Policy Brief: Most Frequently Asked Questions on TRIPS Waiver
- UNESCAP Working Paper – Towards more affordable medicine: A proposal to waive certain obligations from the Agreement on TRIPS
- MSF Questions and Answers in Bangla
- MSF Questions and Answers in Nepalese
- MSF Questions and Answers in Thai