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Namibia backs bid to ban Covid vaccine patents 

2021-05-06  Albertina Nakale

Namibia backs bid to ban Covid vaccine patents 
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Albertina Nakale

Namibia has joined the international community to put pressure on manufacturers who are facing demands from liberal activists and global leaders to suspend intellectual property rights on the vaccines as the Covid-19 pandemic surges. 

India and South Africa are pressing the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to waive an international intellectual property agreement that protects pharmaceutical trade secrets.

The United States, Britain and the European Union so far have blocked the plan.The debate surrounds the waiving of an international intellectual property agreement that protects pharmaceutical trade secrets. 

Global leaders and liberal activists are demanding drugmakers commit to increasing the vaccine supply by loosening patent and intellectual property protections on coronavirus vaccines.

A temporary ban would allow multiple actors to start production sooner, instead of having manufacturing concentrated in the hands of a small number of patent holders.

US president Joe Biden and drugmakers, in particular, are facing demands from liberal activists and global leaders to suspend intellectual property rights on the vaccines as the pandemic surges.

Contacted for comment on Namibia’s position, health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula yesterday said the country supports the idea to have vaccines made a public good.

“Namibia supports efforts that aim to make vaccines a public good that is readily available to all those who need them – without limitation,” Shangula reacted. 

Pharmaceutical and biotech companies, also feeling the pressure, sought on Monday to head off such a move, which could cut into future profits and jeopardise their business model. 

Pfizer and Moderna, two major vaccine makers, each announced steps to increase the supply of vaccines around the world. 

WTO members are assessing signs
of progress in talks on a proposal by South Africa and India to waive patent rights on Covid-19 vaccines to boost supply to developing countries. 

They want to ease the rules of the WTO’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) agreement. WTO decisions are based on consensus, so all 164 members need to agree.

Ten meetings in seven months
have failed to produce a breakthrough, with 60 proposal sponsors from emerging economies, backed by a chorus of campaign groups, Nobel laureates and former world leaders pitted against richer developed countries, such as Switzerland, the US and in the European Union, where many pharmaceutical companies are based. 

Meanwhile, Shangula said yesterday the second consignment of vaccines procured by government from the Covax facility is expected in May 2021. He, however, said the exact date has not been determined. “The situation in India has made it difficult for the availability of vaccines from India. But the same vaccines can be obtained from other sources,” he noted.


2021-05-06  Albertina Nakale

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