Nurse checking a patient’s oxygen level inside the ward for patients with suspected COVID-19.
COVID-19 (coronavirus disease)

Disappointing outcome after nearly two years of discussions at the WTO

We are disappointed in the inadequate outcome after nearly two years of discussions at the WTO  

Today, more than 20 months since India and South Africa first proposed a landmark intellectual property (IP) Waiver for COVID-19 medical tools at the World Trade Organization (WTO), governments have reached a decision at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference in Geneva this week (12-15 June). The decision text contains a set of clarifications of the existing public health safeguards and a limited exception for the procedure of using compulsory licensing for export of COVID vaccines by eligible countries, for a duration of five years. 

MSF, Doctors Without Borders, South Africa, COVID-19 waiver US support
Tadeu Andre/MSF
It has been discouraging for us to see that wealthy countries failed to resolve the glaring inequities in access to lifesaving COVID-19 medical tools for people in low- and middle-income countries. Dr. Christos Christou, International President of MSF

This agreement fails overall to offer an effective and meaningful solution to help increase people’s access to needed medical tools during the pandemic, as it does not adequately waive intellectual property on all essential COVID-19 medical tools, and it does not apply to all countries. The measures outlined in the decision will not address pharmaceutical monopolies or ensure affordable access to lifesaving medical tools and will set a negative precedent for future global health crises and pandemics.  

Throughout the pandemic, MSF has repeatedly pointed out the challenges and struggles faced by frontline healthcare workers in providing care for people facing COVID-19. Despite lofty political commitments and words of solidarity, it has been discouraging for us to see that wealthy countries failed to resolve the glaring inequities in access to lifesaving COVID-19 medical tools for people in low- and middle-income countries. 
 

MSF staff arriving at a community at lake Mirini in Brazil
Diego Baravelli

Without agreement on a true global solution to ongoing access challenges, MSF now urges governments to take immediate steps at the national level to make sure people have access to needed COVID-19 medical tools. Governments should consider using all available legal and policy options, including suspending intellectual property on COVID-19 medical tools, issuing compulsory licenses on key medical technologies to overcome patent barriers, and adopting new laws and policies to ensure the disclosure of essential technical information needed to support generic production and supply.  

MSF also calls on governments to take concrete steps to rethink and reform the biomedical innovation system to ensure that lifesaving medical tools are developed, produced and supplied equitably where monopoly-based and market-driven principles are not a barrier to access. It is time to prioritise saving lives instead of protecting corporate and political interests.” 

Dr. Christos Christou, International President of MSF

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Press Release 1 June 2022