Should IP Rights on Vaccines Be Wavered?

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Vaccination For COVID 19

The WHO declared the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic on 11th March, 2020. As it was for the first time that humans were infected with the virus, it was only after twelve months of research and development that eight vaccines were approved to be used globally. To name a few, these vaccines included mRNA manufactured by Moderna, vaccines by Pfizer and BioNTech, AstraZeneca by the university of Oxford & Gamelya Institute in Russia and vaccines produced by Johnson & Johnson.

While countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Seychelles and Israel have enormously benefited from vaccination drives arranged in their economies, developing countries such as India and Nepal are struggling with access and distribution of these vaccines.

Request Made To The WTO Council For TRIPS Agreement

In October 2020, the representatives of the South African and the Indian government requested the World Trade Organisation council to allow for a waiver on Intellectual rights for different COVID 19 vaccines. This request was submitted to the WTO council for the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement and the waiver would only be applicable till half of the world had been vaccinated against the COVID 19 virus.

This request was made to allow a waiver on Intellectual property rights for COVID 19 vaccines so that developing countries could strategise around production of these vaccines in their home countries, thus bridging the gap of poor access and distribution.

After this meeting in October, there have been ten meetings in the last seven months which have failed to produce any outcome. This decision can only be implemented if all 164 members of the WTO come to a consensus.

WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that this decision would bring about encouraging progress provided a decision was made at the earliest. With developing countries comprising only 0.2% of the total 700 million vaccines administered, this seems to be the need of the hour.

Should IP Rights On Vaccines Be Wavered ?

If we were to retrospectively examine the early years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic which took place in Africa, there had been a delay in the timely access of medicines which had resulted in the loss of 11 million African lives.
To ensure that we do not make the same error in judgement, it is important to produce COVID 19 vaccines on a larger scale and this can only take place if there are more vaccines produced.

Global government leaders such as Joe Biden, Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union and Britain’s Gordon Brown are in favour of this initiative and have voiced their opinions on different public forums.

The Counter Argument

Developed economies such as Britain and Switzerland are not in favour of letting go of the waiver. Pharma companies state that the quantum of funds needed for vaccine development is huge and the process is in itself unpredictable. Also, there is a variant of risk in vaccine development which demands a clear chain of communication between developers and manufacturers. A slight deviation in technology could undermine the confidence of the public in the vaccine. 

Concluding Remarks – Should IP Rights On Vaccines Be Wavered ?

While the discussion still persists, in trying times like these it is necessary for us to take utmost care of ourselves. Although, the United States has announced its support, the story does not end with just wavering of IP rights, there is a great amount of manpower, capital and technology needed in the production of these vaccines. For timely and correct implementation of vaccine production countries need to have the support of both governments and pharmaceutical players and at the same time keep the confidence of the people.


This article is authored by Medha Rijal. She is an active blogger and writes about topics such as financial planning, investments and wealth management.

To know more about the economy and investment options like equity, mutual funds, debt – check our post on “How to start investing“and “A Wealth Snapshot of India


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Post Author: Medha Rijal