Briefing Session on COVID Vaccine: How WTO is obstructing access, and what unions can do – Unions For Trade Justice

Briefing Session on COVID Vaccine: How WTO is obstructing access, and what unions can do

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.

Read the PSI Statement and send a letter to your government in support of the waiver.

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.

Union Positions:


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