x

Health

WTO Panel Considers Easing Protections on COVID-19 Vaccines

GENEVA — Envoys from World Trade Organization member nations are taking up a proposal to ease patents and other intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines to help developing countries fight the pandemic, an idea backed by the Biden administration but opposed in other wealthy countries with strong pharmaceutical industries.

On the table for a two-day meeting of a WTO panel opening Tuesday is a revised proposal presented by India and South Africa for a temporary IP waiver on coronavirus vaccines. The idea has drawn support from more than 60 countries, which now include the United States and China. 

Some European Union member states oppose the idea, and the EU on Friday offered an alternative proposal that relies on existing World Trade Organization rules. The 27-nation bloc said those rules currently allow governments to grant production licenses — such as for COVID-19 vaccines or therapies — to manufacturers in their countries without the consent of the patent holders in times of emergency. 

At stake in the meeting is whether the various sides can move toward drawing up a unified text, a key procedural step that could unlock accelerated negotiations. Inside observers cautioned, however, that a major breakthrough was not expected.

Even optimistic supporters acknowledge an IP waiver could take months to finalize because of solid resistance from some countries and WTO rules that require consensus on such decisions — meaning a single country among the 164 members could scuttle any proposal. Even if adopted, ratification would also take time. 

Advocacy groups, emboldened by the support the United States announced last month, have increasingly pushed the plan and insisted it would not be as difficult to carry out as detractors would say. 

Doctors Without Borders, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning humanitarian agency, faulted the European Union, Switzerland, Norway and other holdouts on the IP waiver idea Monday for employing alleged "delaying tactics." 

Pharmaceutical companies insist that an IP waiver could dampen the incentive for researchers and entrepreneurs to innovate and say vaccine-sharing by rich countries would be a much faster way to get shots to health workers and at-risk populations in the developing world.

The World Health Organization has repeatedly inveighed against unequal access to vaccines, noting that rich countries scooped up supplies well in excess of the need of their own populations while developing countries have obtained only a small fraction of the doses so far distributed and injected worldwide.

RELATED

MADRID — When the coronavirus pandemic was first declared, Spaniards were ordered to stay home for more than three months.

Top Stories

Church

NEW YORK - Some 21 years after it was destroyed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States that brought down the Twin Towers in New York City, the new St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church rising in its place is among the most eagerly awaited architectural openings of 2022.

Events

STATEN ISLAND, NY – For yet another year, the community of Holy Trinity-St Nicholas in Staten Island honored couples celebrating 50+ years of marriage with a modest ceremony held at the church immediately following the Divine Liturgy on January 16.

Society

NEW YORK – New research into Greek artifacts looted by the Nazis was highlighted in the New York Times on January 18 as “the topic of the Nazi role in antiquities looting is increasingly drawing attention, in part through the work of scholars who are peeling back the mysteries of what happened to the objects that were excavated or seized eight decades ago.

Video

SNF’s Health Initiative Will Support Child and Adolescent Mental Health

ATHENS - When we think about childhood injuries, we usually think of scratches, a few stitches, maybe even a broken bone.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. abc@xyz.com

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.