Vaccine Equity

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    Recently, the Indian Foreign Minister flagged ‘vaccine equity’ Calls for global cooperation to combat pandemics at the G-20 ministerial meetings. 

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    • These remarks came in the wake of the European Union’s (EU) opposition to India’s and South Africa’s proposal to increase large-scale manufacturing of vaccines by waiving some parts of the intellectual property rules under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement)
    • These rules prevent international firms with the capacity to produce approved vaccinations from doing so owing to issues with licencing.

    Vaccine Equity

    • In January 2021, WHO issued a call to all countries to work together in solidarity – and in each of their best interests – to ensure that within the first 100 days of the year, vaccination of health workers and older people was underway in all countries. 
    • This call to action is at the heart of WHO’s campaign for #VaccinEquity, which aims to overcome the pandemic and the inequalities that lie at the root of so many global health challenges, as well as drive a global recovery.
    • By day 100, tens of thousands of individuals and nearly 1500 organizations around the world signed the #VaccinEquity Declaration. Over half a billion COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered worldwide, with over 38 million COVAX doses shipped to more than 100 countries and economies.
    • However, a lack of supply and inequitable distribution of vaccines still remains the biggest threat to ending the acute stage of this pandemic and driving global recovery.

    TRIPS Agreement

    • The WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is the most comprehensive multilateral agreement on intellectual property (IP). 
    • Came into effect on 1 January 1995.
    • It plays a central role in facilitating trade in knowledge and creativity, in resolving trade disputes over IP, and in assuring WTO members the latitude to achieve their domestic policy objectives. 
    • It frames the IP system in terms of innovation, technology transfer and public welfare. 
    • The Agreement is legal recognition of the significance of links between IP and trade and the need for a balanced IP system.

    TRIPS and Covid Vaccine

    • Inoculating millions of people all over the world would require the massive production of vaccines, followed by their equitable distribution. 
    • An impediment to the production and distribution of vaccines is the intellectual property (IP) rights that their developers enjoy. 
    • Thus, the TRIPS Agreement’s clause is the biggest impediment in manufacturing vaccines in huge numbers.
    • India and South Africa have together proposed that the World Trade Organization waive certain provisions of the TRIPS agreement when it comes to Covid-19 vaccines, drugs and therapeutics. 
    • It argues that the flexibilities provided by TRIPS are insufficient in dealing with the current pandemic especially for countries that lack manufacturing capability in the pharmaceutical sector.

    Suggestions

    • World leaders need to increase contributions to the COVAX facility and to share doses with COVAX in parallel with the national vaccine rollout. Furthermore, they have to prioritize supplying COVAX over new bilateral deals.
    • Vaccine manufacturers should share know-how to scale up vaccine manufacturing and dramatically increase the global supply of vaccines for the coming years. Regulatory bodies to accelerate approval processes in a safe and deliberate way.
    • The countries have to develop data systems on vaccine supply, distribution and uptake,  including sex- and age-disaggregated sub-national data, to drive delivery, equality and impact.
    • All governments should ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are distributed free at the point of care and without risk of financial hardship, starting with health workers and those people at greatest risk of COVID-19, to prioritize affected communities and the voices of essential workers in decision-making and ensure gender equality is central to all actions.

    Conclusion

    • The world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure – and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries.
    • International cooperation is the way forward to deal with vaccine requirements to counter the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    G 20

    • The G-20 is an influential bloc that brings together the world’s major economies. The G-20 member countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, India, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.
    • India will host the G20 Summit in 2023, the year after the 2022 meeting in Indonesia. 2021 meetings to be held in Italy.

    Source: TH