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Rich Countries are Refusing to Waive Rights on Vaccines

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The U.S., Canada and U.K. are among some of the highincome countries actively blocking a patentwaiver proposal designed to boost the global production of Covid19 vaccines. It comes as coronavirus cases worldwide surge to their highest level so far and the World Health Organization has repeatedly admonished a shocking imbalance in the distribution of vaccines amid the pandemic.

Members of the World Trade Organization will meet virtually in Geneva, Switzerland on Thursday to hold informal talks on whether to temporarily waive intellectual property and patent rights on Covid vaccines and treatments. The landmark proposal, which was jointly submitted by India and South Africa in October, has been backed by more than 100 mostly developing countries. It aims to facilitate the manufacture of treatments locally and boost the global vaccination campaign.

Six months on, the proposal continues to be stonewalled by a small number of governments including the U.S., EU, U.K., Switzerland, Japan, Norway, Canada, Australia and Brazil. The urgency and importance of waiving certain intellectual property rights amid the pandemic have been underscored by the WHO, health experts, civil society groups, trade unions, former world leaders, international medical charities, Nobel laureates and human rights organizations.

The waiver, if adopted at the General Council, the WTOs highestlevel decisionmaking body, could help countries around the world overcome legal barriers preventing them from…

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