Pandemic panel urges vaccine-makers to agree on voluntary licensing

Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response urges WTO, WHO to gather meeting of major vaccine makers

Peter Kenny   | 22.11.2021
Pandemic panel urges vaccine-makers to agree on voluntary licensing


An independent international panel that finished its work in May urged on Monday for major coronavirus vaccine-producing countries and manufacturers to urgently convene to secure agreement on voluntary licensing and technology transfers.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response called for the World Trade Organization (WTO) and World Health Organization (WHO) to gather these actors as the WTO prepares for a four-day ministerial meeting in Geneva, with vaccine licenses and a temporary waiver of Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) expected to be on the agenda.

South Africa and India had proposed the waiver on Oct. 2, 2020. Of the WTO's 164 members, two-thirds -- mostly developing countries -- now support the scheme, though the trade body has a system requiring consensus for such issues to gain full traction.

"We are encouraged to see some movement to address the major gaps exposed in global pandemic preparedness and response," said Helen Clark, the co-chair of the panel and former prime minister of New Zealand.

Though reform on pandemic preparedness and response is underway, world leaders will need to come together to step up progress to end the global pandemic and prepare for the next global health threat, the panel's co-chairs said in a six-month accountability report.

Clark said that at the UN General Assembly, leaders could declare their commitments and lay a pathway to a more secure world, including a new Global Health Threats Council to provide "much-needed leadership and accountability."

1 billion vaccine doses

The panel calls on high-income countries with a vaccine pipeline to commit to providing to the world's 92 low- and middle-income countries of the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment at least 1 billion vaccine doses by Sept. 1 and more than 2 billion jabs by mid-2022 through COVAX and other coordinated mechanisms.

"The World Trade Organization and WHO to convene major vaccine-producing countries and manufacturers to get agreement on voluntary licensing and technology transfer arrangements for COVID-19 vaccines (including through the Medicines Patent Pool)," the panel chairs also said.

"If actions do not occur within three months, a waiver of intellectual property rights under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights should come into force immediately," said the panel.

Another urgent recommendation was for production of and access to COVID-19 tests and therapeutics, including medical oxygen, to be urgently scaled up in low- and middle-income countries.

It said this should come with WHO's funding of $1.7 billion for related needs in 2021 and the full use of a further $3.7 billion in the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for procuring tests, strengthening laboratories, and running surveillance in combating the pandemic.

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