Many countries are experiencing vaccine shortages, particularly India, exacerbating a terrible second wave of infections that has overwhelmed hospitals and morgues as families scramble for more medicine and oxygen rare.
At the same time, some wealthy countries have gone beyond immunizing their most vulnerable citizens, offering the vaccine to younger people, while several countries have obtained enough vaccines to immunize their populations more than once.
“It is totally unacceptable to live in the world, in which developed countries can immunize most of their population, while many developing countries do not have access to a single dose,” Guterres said in a briefing. Wednesday after meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow. .
He mentioned the risks of coronavirus mutations and new variants as the virus spreads “like wildfire” in different parts of the developing world.
“So it’s in everyone’s best interest that everyone be vaccinated everywhere. We believe that we need two things: to double the global vaccine production capacity and at the same time to have a more equitable distribution of vaccines, ”said Guterres.
Last October, South Africa and India submitted to the WTO a request to waive intellectual property rights over vaccines and other medical technologies needed to fight the coronavirus during the duration of the pandemic. More than 100 other countries have since supported this call.
Last week, Guterres praised the US government’s support for the patent waiver.
The decision ultimately rests with the 164 members of the World Trade Organization, and if one country votes against a waiver, the proposal will fail.
The WTO chief said on Friday that the US administration’s call to remove patent protections on COVID-19 vaccines would boost negotiations to resolve inequalities in access, but the decision in itself – even would not solve the problem.
Long term problems?
The pharmaceutical industry argued that a waiver would do more harm than good in the long run.
Relaxing patent protections would eat away at their profits, potentially reducing the incentives for companies to innovate and make the kind of tremendous leaps they’ve made with COVID-19 vaccines, which have been produced at a lightning pace and unprecedented.
The industry has also argued that vaccine production is complicated and cannot be speeded up simply by relaxing patent rights.
Instead, he said reducing grunts in supply chains and ingredient shortages was a more pressing issue.
The industry has insisted that a faster solution would be for rich countries to share their vaccine stocks with poorer ones.
“A waiver is the simple but the wrong answer to what is a complex problem,” said the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations. “Waiving COVID-19 vaccine patents will not increase production or provide the practical solutions needed to tackle this global health crisis.”