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Supporting the suspension of patents on COVID-19 vaccines is a courageous move

ByMicheal Johnson

May 7, 2021

The General secretary The United Nations on Thursday welcomed the support announced by the United States Government to suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines.

In a statement issued by the office of his spokesperson, António Guterres indicates that the decision made by the North American executive “opens the opportunity for vaccine producers to share knowledge and technology necessary for the efficient dissemination of locally produced vaccines ”.

Note that this can also significantly increase delivery to the COVAX * mechanism, ”the United Nations initiative for the equitable sharing of immunizations around the world.

The head of the UN pointed out that “we must also ensure that countries have the necessary materials to produce these vaccines”, and recalled that “no one will be safe from the virus until we are all safe.”


Machad, a health worker in Benin shows his vaccination card with his first dose of AstraZeneca.

Also the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, congratulated the United States in a tweet for this vital step to protect the right to health and make patents work for everyone.

The COVID-19 pandemic calls for exceptional measures

The CEO of the World Health Organization he also applauded the commitment of the US administration, its president, Joe Biden, and its vice president, Kamala Harris, calling it a “courageous” measure aimed at ending the pandemic as soon as possible.

“This is a momentous moment in the fight against COVID-19. The commitment of the President of the United States, Joe Biden, and Ambassador Katherine Tai, United States Trade Representative, to support the suspension of the rights of vaccine intellectual property is a clear example of US leadership in addressing global health challenges, “said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The head of the Organization congratulated the United States “for its historic decision in favor of equality in vaccination and for prioritizing the well-being of all people at a critical time for everyone ”.

“Now we will all move forward together quickly, in solidarity, taking advantage of the talent and commitment of the scientists who developed the COVID-19 vaccines that serve to save lives,” added Tedros.

Exceptional circumstances, exceptional measures


Pfizer and BioNTech assure that their vaccine against COVID-19 is effective in more than 90% of the cases

Tai, for his part, issued a statement on Wednesday stating that “the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures “ and that the suspension of intellectual property protections on vaccines was necessary to help end the pandemic.

The US official affirmed that her country will participate in the World Trade Organization negotiations to support the temporary exemption of patents and will work with the private sector and other partners to expand vaccine manufacturing and distribution.

Faced with this decision, Tedros added that “the White House’s support for the temporary suspension of the intellectual property of COVID-19 vaccines reflects the wisdom and moral leadership of the United States to work to end this pandemic.. But I’m not surprised by this announcement. It’s what I expected from the president’s administration Biden “.

Extend the decision to treatments and tests

For his part, the spokesman for the UN’s International Drug Purchase Mechanism also welcomed the US commitment and described it as “a great step forward” for equitable access to vaccination.

Herve Verhoosel added that this action “should apply to all tools to fight COVID-19: vaccines, treatments and tests” and strongly applauded the leadership shown by the United States.

UNICEF / Adrian Musinguzi

A healthcare worker picks up a vial of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine from a refrigerated container in Uganda.

The suspension depends on the World Trade Organization

Both the United States and the European Union initially opposed negotiations at the World Trade Organization to temporarily lift intellectual protection for vaccines. The Organization is the body responsible for administering trade-related intellectual property rights agreements.

The initial proposal for the suspension of the patents was made by India and South Africa and has since been co-sponsored by Kenya, Eswatini, Mozambique, Pakistan, Bolivia, Venezuela, Mongolia, Zimbabwe, Egypt, the African Group and the Group of the Least Developed Countries.

Just before the announcement by the United States on this matter was known, the Director General of the WTO had already commented that ensuring the equitable distribution of vaccines it is the “moral and economic question of our time” and stressed that “the global economic recovery cannot be sustained unless we find a way to achieve equitable access to vaccines, therapeutics and diagnosis.”

During yesterday’s meeting of the General Council of the Organization, its members agreed to allow the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights to continue examining the proposal first presented by India and South Africa.

“I am firmly convinced that once we can sit down with real text in front of us, we will find a pragmatic way forward, acceptable to all parties, that allows for the kind of answers that our members in developing countries are seeking with regard to vaccines, while looking at research and innovation and how to protect them, “Okonko-Iweala said.

* COVAX is part of an unprecedented global effort to provide vaccines to at least 20% of the population of each participating country during 2021, in order to protect those most at risk of severe forms of COVID-19 and save lives. In America, 36 countries will receive vaccines through the COVAX Mechanism, of which 26 will do so with their own financing and ten will do so at no cost.

The Revolving Fund of the Pan American Health Organization is the mechanism designated by COVAX to acquire vaccines on behalf of the countries of the region.

COVAX is co-chaired by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and works in partnership with UNICEF, the PAHO Revolving Fund, as well as with the World Bank, civil society organizations, manufacturers, and others.