Brazil was the only developing country to oppose the proposal to drop intellectual property rights to speed up production and expand access to vaccines and treatments for Covid-19, at a meeting at the ‘WTO (World Trade Organization) this Wednesday (10).
The proposal was presented last year by India and South Africa, is co-sponsored by 57 other members of the entity and has the support of at least 50 other countries.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also defends the idea, on the grounds that it allows production in less developed countries, of which a hundred to date have not received a dose of immunizer.
As of Wednesday, 319.6 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine had been administered worldwide, but 212.8 million (65%) had been administered in the United States, China, the European Union and the United Kingdom. United. The American and British governments have already administered around 30 vaccines per 100 inhabitants, while most of the poorest countries have not reached 1 dose / 100 inhabitants.
The WHO has criticized so-called “vaccine nationalism”, in which rich countries buy more doses than necessary for their entire population while most countries of the world do not have vaccines. According to the organization, global vaccination is the only way to safely contain the transmission of Sars-Cobv-2.
Under the proposal approved by most countries, there would be an exemption from travel obligations related to copyright, industrial designs, patents and protection of undisclosed information.
The suspension would last for a predetermined period of time until mass vaccination is in effect worldwide and the majority of the world’s population is immunized. Members would review the exemption annually until terminated.
In that Wednesday meeting (10), which ended without a decision, Brazil said that the agreement that already regulates intellectual property, called Trips, already provides tools and policies for public health actions of Member States.
According to the position defended by the current Brazilian government, the flexibilities of the agreement, with measures such as compulsory licenses, can be used if necessary to accelerate the production of vaccines and medicines.
In the past, Brazil has even adopted the breach of the patent to allow the use of a drug to treat AIDS patients, Efavirenz, from the US laboratory Merck Sharp & Dohme. To make the drug cheaper, the country switched to generics made in India in 2007.
The threat of patent infringement had already resulted in discounts on antiretrovirals (which inhibit the multiplication of HIV) in 2001 and 2003.
On Wednesday, the Brazilian government – which administered an average of 5.3 doses per 100 inhabitants – sided with major drug manufacturers, such as Switzerland (11 doses / 100), the United States (28/100 ), the United Kingdom (35/100).
The argument of these countries is that only the current system of intellectual protection provides the necessary incentives for vaccine developers and manufacturers.
The European Union, also a producer and exporter of vaccines and medicines, has defended that equitable access to vaccines be ensured by the Covax consortium, which plans to provide 1.3 billion doses to 92 low-income countries.
However, Covax, as well as the EU itself, was affected this quarter by the lack of production capacity which has prompted vaccine makers to cut deliveries. In addition, the WHO argues that one of the positive effects of the approval of vaccines and treatments against Covid-19 is precisely to enable poor countries to depend less on donations.
Defending its proposal, South Africa said that if compulsory licenses were a solution, they would have already been put into practice.
WHO also considers that a broader solution negotiated at the WTO is necessary, because voluntary licenses, according to the organization, are limited, not always transparent and insufficient to meet the needs of the current pandemic.
The issue is expected to be debated again in April.