The United States backs a suspension of intellectual property for COVID-19 vaccines and EU open to discuss

Club de Madrid applauds today’s decision by the U.S. Government to support a suspension of WTO’s intellectual property rules for COVID-19 vaccines. By supporting the TRIPS waiver, U.S. President, Joe Biden, contributes to a more efficient and universal distribution of vaccines. The European Union has also expressed its intention to discuss a waiver.

For the past few months, and as part of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, Club de Madrid has been advocating for the waiver, initially proposed in October 2020 by South Africa and India. A global pandemic requires a global response. The waiver is our best asset to ensure that all stay safe from COVID-19 and that vaccines are broadly available to all people, everywhere.

Together with organisations such as the Yunus Centre, Oxfam and UNAID -all coming together in the People’s Vaccine Alliance-Club de Madrid sent an open letter to US President, Joe Biden, asking him to support the waiver. Fort-six Members of Club de Madrid were among the more than 170 former heads of state and government and Nobel laureates that called on President Biden to take action.

Shortly after, Club de Madrid also joined other organisations in supporting an appeal by nearly 400 Members of the European Parliament and National Parliamentarians asking the European Commission and European Union Member States to back the waiver at the WTO. So far, the EU has only stated that it is open to discussing the waiver.

A game-changer in our efforts to immunize the global population

At the current production and distribution rate, many countries will not be able to achieve widespread vaccination until 2024. Prolonging the spread of COVID-19 could cost the global economy as much as 9.2 trillion dollars, according to a study commissioned by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Research Foundation.

“An urgent temporary waiver of intellectual property rules at the World Trade Organization would help us ramp up global supply of vaccines together with a global multi-year burden-sharing plan to finance vaccines for the poorest countries. This would be in the strategic interests of the U.S., and of every country on the planet”, said Gordon Brown, the former UK Prime Minister and a Member of Club de Madrid.

But the suspension of intellectual property rights is a game-changer. If confirmed by the rest of the WTO Member States, it will help scale up vaccine manufacturing and overcome artificial supply constraints. States can take further steps to ensure that vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly unhindered by pharma monopolies. It would be another bold step to achieve global herd immunity much sooner.

Twenty years ago, when the world was coping with a much broader spread of HIV/AIDS, many countries made a similar move. The decision allowed for affordable generic HIV drugs and saved millions of lives.