Ahead of the WTO taking up a proposal by India and South Africa to waive patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines, the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (Brics) grouping has said it is going to work for “reasonable, equitable and affordable” distribution of vaccines.
All the way through the Brics Summit on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called on the grouping to back the move by India and South Africa to safe exemption from highbrow property agreements for vaccines. The proposal is already facing opposition from developed countries, including the United States and European Union (EU) member states.
The Business-Related Aspects of Highbrow Property Rights (TRIPS) Council of the World Business Association (WTO) is expected to the take up the proposal for patent protection waivers on Friday, people familiar with developments said on Wednesday.
The Moscow Declaration adopted at the conclusion of the Brics Summit said the members of the grouping “will work to make sure that, when [the vaccine is] to be had, it is disseminated in a reasonable, equitable and affordable basis”. The declaration didn’t make any direct reference to the proposal by India and South Africa.
The declaration recognised the importance of “extensive immunisation” in preventing, containing and stopping the transmission of the Coronavirus, and supported cooperative approaches to expedite research, development and production of vaccine and therapeutics.
Participating in an online discussion on Tuesday, outside matters minister S Jaishankar said India will do everything imaginable to make vaccines affordable and accessible to people around the globe.
The proposal submitted by India and South Africa to the TRIPS Council on October 2 stated that it is “important for WTO members to work together to make sure that highbrow property rights such as patents, industrial designs, copyright and protection of undisclosed information do not create barriers to the timed access to affordable medical products including vaccines and medicines or to scaling-up of research, development, manufacturing and provide of medical products fundamental to combat Covid-19”.
“As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are remarkable concerns how these will be made to be had promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable price to meet global demand,” the proposal further said, adding developing countries could face difficulties in the use of flexibilities under TRIPS.
A number of the Brics states, Russia has approved a vaccine though experts say this has been done without adequate testing, and China has granted emergency approval to three vaccines, including one meant only for military personnel. India has three vaccines that are in human trials.
Despite the currently strained India-China ties, Chinese President Xi Jinping too offered to work with India on vaccines all through the Brics Summit. “Chinese companies are working with their Russian and Brazilian partners on phase-III clinical trials of vaccines and we are prepared to cooperate with South Africa and India as mannered,” he said.
Developing countries want to India’s extensive vaccine manufacturing and distribution capacities for help and the government organised a special briefing for the diplomatic corps on November 6 to talk about potential collaboration on vaccines.