World Health Organization’s chief said Thursday they will be able to deliver 237 million vaccines by May through its COVAX facility, a global initiative to assist poor countries to fight the pandemic.
One way to do this is by connecting vaccine manufacturers with other companies with excess capacity, Tedros Ghebreyesus said while speaking to the heads of missions at the United Nations in Geneva.
“This means urgent action to ramp up production,” said Tedros.
The second way to boost production is “bilateral technology transfer” through voluntary licensing from a company that owns the patents on a vaccine to another company that can produce them.
Tedros noted that AstraZeneca has done this with SKBio in South Korea and the Serum Institute of India.
He said a third approach is coordinated technology transfer through a global mechanism coordinated by WHO.
“This provides more transparency and a more coherent global approach that contributes to regional health security,” said Tedros.
The final suggestion for boosting production is that countries with vaccine manufacturing capacity can produce their own vaccines by waiving intellectual property rights.
Tedros said South Africa and India had proposed this to the World Trade Organization, but the proposal has not yet been accepted.
On Wednesday, in a repetition of previous meetings, WTO members said they did not reach a consensus on a proposal by South Africa and India for a temporary waiver of certain Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) obligations in response to COVID-19.
Members, however, agreed to discuss the matter further.
Explaining the position of countries who oppose the waiver, Swiss Ambassador to WTO Didier Chambovey said: “We’re not the only one to believe that suspending intellectual property rights is not the right thing to do.”
“It will give a disastrous message to the research-based private laboratories because this will eliminate the incentive that they have to innovate,” he said speaking at the Geneva Press Club on Wednesday.
The reason is that when they are investing risk capital “they don’t know whether they’re going to be successful, and in many instances, this is not the case,” said Chambovey.
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