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Indian-origin experts urge UK to back patent waiver for vaccine parity

India and South Africa had introduced a proposal at the WTO for such a patent waiver for fairer vaccine access for the developing world

Coronavirus vaccine, Covid-19 vaccines

Press Trust of India London
Several Indian-origin scientists are among hundreds of worldwide experts to urge the UK to back a temporary waiver of intellectual property rules for COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to achieve greater vaccine parity worldwide.
India and South Africa had introduced a proposal at the WTO for such a patent waiver for fairer vaccine access for the developing world, but the issue remains deadlocked at the multilateral arena.
Epidemiologists Professor K. Srinath Reddy of the Public Health Foundation of India and Dr Deepti Gurdasani of London's Queen Mary University, Bioengineer Manu Prakash, Associate Professor at Stanford University, Professor Amitava Banerjee of University College London, and Professor Harish Nair of the University of Edinburgh are among 320 scientists calling on technology sharing for global vaccination coverage to boost the fight against variants of concern.
Allowing huge numbers of people in low- and middle-income countries to remain unvaccinated is a reckless approach to public health that creates conditions where new SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) variants of concern are more likely to develop, reads a letter addressed to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street this week.
The experts point out how the Omicron variant was first identified in Botswana and South Africa, countries on a continent in which fewer than one in 10 are fully vaccinated.
Thanks to remarkable scientific innovations, we have a number of vaccines that remain highly effective against all known COVID-19 variants. Yet, unless we share this technology with the world and increase global vaccination coverage, vaccines will not be effective at stopping new variants of concern, the experts say.
They add: We must use and expand domestic vaccine manufacturing and distribution capacity within low and middle-income countries. However, intellectual property rules and trade secrets remain a major barrier to this task.
We call on the UK government to support the temporary waiver of intellectual property rules under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement for COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to scale up and diversify production of the tools needed to end this pandemic.
The UK and European Union (EU) are among the countries not in favour of such a waiver, while the US expressed support last year.
We also call on the British government to use all means at its disposal to pressure pharmaceutical companies to share their technology and know-how with the World Health Organisation's (WHO) COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) and its mRNA technology transfer hub in South Africa. This way, we can accelerate production and supply in low and middle-income countries and prevent further variants of concern from emerging, the scientists urge.
The UK has maintained that it is doing its bit and making "significant" contributions through the WHO's COVAX initiative for vaccine supplies by donating excess doses.
"We recognise and share concerns regarding the level of vaccination in some parts of the world, and we are working on tackling the underlying issues including manufacturing and supply constraints, pressure on health systems, and vaccine confidence," a UK government spokesperson said.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Jan 28 2022 | 8:53 PM IST

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