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COVID-19 vaccine: WT nations fail to agree on intellectual right waiver

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THE World Trade Organisation countries failed anew to agree on a proposal to suspend intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines to boost production and fill a void in poor nations.

  WTO states held talks at the global body’s headquarters in Geneva but could not reach a consensus, WTO spokesman, Keith Rockwell told reporters following nine months of discussions on what he called a “very emotional issue.”

  Members will hold an informal meeting in early September to discuss the state of play, followed by a formal meeting on October 13 and 14.

  “There’s no way they’re going to stop discussing this. It’s too important,” Rockwell said, after hours of talks on day one of the two-day WTO General Council Meeting.

  “It’s a very emotional issue, and it’s not going to stop.

  India and South Africa brought forward the intellectual property waiver idea in October.

  Proponents argue the temporary removal of IP rights will boost production in developing countries and address the dramatic inequity in access.

  That notion has long met with fierce opposition from pharmaceutical giants and their host countries, which insist patents are not the main roadblocks to scaling up production and warn the move could hamper innovation.

  The WTO’s 164 member states take all decisions by consensus. 

  Rockwell said all countries agreed on the

need to ramp up production quickly, but disagreed on how best to achieve the goal

  He said there was surplus capacity in Senegal, Bangladesh, India, South Africa, Thailand, Morocco and Egypt, but while they might have untapped expertise, they would need to have technology and know-how on producing COVID-19 vaccines.

  “They have the capacity to do this. And so the question is, how do you tap into that unused capacity?” said Rockwell.

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