Disclaimer of intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines

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Global access to Covid-19 vaccines has been uneven. As of January 7, 2022, only 9% of people in low-income countries (with a gross national income (GNI) per capita less than $ 1,045) received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to 77% in high-income states (GNI per capita greater than $ 12,696).

Three-year waiver proposed

In October 2020, South Africa and India has proposed to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive intellectual property rights to Covid-19 vaccines for three years, in a bid to boost global vaccine manufacturing. Intellectual property rights are rights granted to creators of works, which may take the form of an invention, industrial design or trade secret, and generally give the creator an exclusive right to use the material. their creation for a certain period of time. The position of South Africa and India won the estimated support to 100 other states. In principle, the United States also supports a waiver of intellectual property rights relating to vaccines.

Opposition to a waiver

At the WTO, the waiver has been challenged by the UK and the European Union, among other countries. They argue that the intellectual property rights system has played a “positive role” by generating innovative vaccines against the virus and by encouraging work to continue to treat new variants of concern. Rather, they encouraged the voluntary vaccine license, to allow others to manufacture doses. From 2022, WTO talks continue.

This article describes global inequalities in vaccine delivery, the arguments advanced both to support and oppose the waiver, and other challenges that affect the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines around the world. Section 3 provides a list of further reading on this issue.

The library briefing, Covax and Global Access to Covid-19 Vaccines, provides more information on the Covax international initiative to buy and share vaccines with low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The briefing, UK and G7 commitments to donate Covid-19 vaccines, provides details on UK and other G7 countries’ commitments to donate vaccines to PRFIs.


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