WTO Chief Welcomes COVID-19 Shot Patent Plan

WTO Chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala [Photo: WTO]

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has commended a provisional deal to waive patent rights for COVID-19 vaccines.

This is after the United States, the European Union, India and South Africa agreed on key elements for a waiver.

WTO director general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, says the move now needs the backing of the 164 member-countries of the organization.

“This is a major step forward, but we are not there yet. We have more work to do to ensure that we have the support of the entire WTO membership,” noted Okonjo-Iweala.

If approved, the agreement will see countries permit domestic manufacturers to produce vaccines without patent-holder consent for three or five years.

However, only developing countries accounting for less than 10 percent of global exports of COVID-19 jabs in 2021 could take advantage of the waivers.

This comes as international pharmaceutical firms have criticized the process, saying that weakening patents when supply constraints are eased is a mistake.

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