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WTO fails to reach agreement to release patents for COVID vaccines

The World Trade Organization (WTO) noted that its member countries did not reach an agreement on the release of the patents of the COVID-19 vaccines demanded by some nations to ensure a more equal distribution.

After a two-day meeting of the council that deals with intellectual property issues (Adpic), its president Dagfinn Sorli admitted that said body “is not in a position to agree on a concrete and positive conclusion.”

The communiqué explains that some member countries “warned of the risk of not achieving a solution if the delegations are not capable of making real commitments.”

“A positive and significant result would not only send a powerful message of global solidarity, but would be proof that the WTO has the capacity to respond to a major global crisis,” these members added.

South Africa and India had called for the intellectual property rights for coronavirus vaccines to be temporarily lifted to increase their production and address unequal access between rich and poor countries.

However, the pharmaceutical giants and their home countries oppose it, arguing that patents are not the main obstacle to scaling manufacturing and that such action would undermine innovation.

The pressure for an agreement grows as the 12th WTO ministerial conference approaches, which will take place from November 30 to December 3 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The organization works by consensus, with which the 164 member states must give their green light to any agreement.

Sorli noted that they will continue working to reach a council before the ministerial meeting. More discussions are planned for October 26.

Many countries and NGOs, in addition to the World Health Organization, have supported the proposal of South Africa and India.

On average, vaccination rates are 30 times higher in rich countries than in poor ones.

While some countries already administer the third dose of the vaccine, billions of people still did not have access to the first.

The head of the WTO, Nigerian Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said that this inequality was “devastating to the lives and livelihoods of Africans” and “morally unacceptable”.

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