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Is the treaty against pandemics very timid in addressing inequalities?

Is the treaty against pandemics very timid in addressing inequalities?

Negotiations for an international agreement against future pandemics are accelerating, but some participants fear that it will be too timid against the inequalities in access to medicines, which were exposed with the covid-19.

That pandemic revealed the failures of the global health system, and the 194 member countries of the World Health Organization (WHO) decided to negotiate a legally binding text to deal with the next catastrophe, or even prevent it. The process, which is just in its infancy, has the ambitious goal of reaching a final agreement by May 2024.

But critics are already warning that the revisions to the basic document of the negotiations are weakening their scope, especially regarding access to vaccines and other medical products.

It is about a gap between rich and poor countries that cost countless lives during the pandemic due to lack of access to vaccines or even medical oxygen.

“I think it’s a real throwback”Suerie Moon, co-director of the Global Health Center at the University Institute of Geneva, told AFP.

If the poorest countries do not see solid guarantees that they will be better protected in the next pandemic, “I think there is a real risk that they will withdraw” of the talks, he warned.

The revised text presented last week by the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB), in charge of conducting the negotiating process, is a synthesis of a multitude of proposals from numerous member countries. It identifies areas where consensus is emerging and proposes various options on the most controversial issues.

It can be better

For some observers, this project, which will be examined in the next round of INB discussions in mid-June, is more “clean” but also weaker in some important points.

Some NGOs especially deplore the removal of a mention that obliges private companies that receive public funds for their research and development to be transparent in their pricing and transfer their technology to the poorest countries.

Instead, the draft in its current version calls on countries to strive to promote the sharing of know-how and transparency. “in accordance with national law and as appropriate”.

“Voluntary measures are insufficient”, said Luis Villarroel, of the NGO Innovarte, which works to promote a balanced intellectual property system.

the text is “very weak”he claimed.

Mohga Kamal-Yanni of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, which fights inequalities in access to vaccines, also considered the text to be “weak” on the practical modalities of ensuring equitable access.

“The covid-19, and before the hivclearly showed that we cannot depend on the good will of pharmaceutical companies to ensure equitable access”highlighted the activist in a statement.


There are also elements in the text that probably do not suit the pharmaceutical industry, but are important in the eyes of less wealthy countries, such as the idea of ​​linking the sharing of genetic resources for research purposes to the obligation to share the fruits in form of royalties, technology transfer or the medicines themselves.

This concept of a better sharing of genetic resources appears, for example, in the recent UN treaty on the high seas.

The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations (IFPMA) fears that such an obligation could curb data sharing.

“We remain concerned that decisions will be made that we will end up regretting in the event of a future pandemic,” IFPMA chief Thomas Cueni said in a statement sent to AFP.

“System innovation and rapid access to pathogens have been crucial for the pharmaceutical industry to develop new vaccines, treatments and diagnostics in response to covid-10,” he added.

What everyone seems to agree on is that new pandemic threats are looming and that consensus is urgently needed to meet the May 2024 deadline.

Source: AFP

Source: Gestion

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