Africa: Group Files Petition to WTO for Universal Access to Covid Vaccine

The World Trade Organisation has received a petition calling for universal access to affordable Covid-19 vaccines.

The petition was delivered virtually by Avaaz, a global online citizen movement, on December 9. It has more than 900,000 signatures from individuals around the world.

The petition has asked all governments, WTO members and pharmaceutical companies to ensure access to lifesaving Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and equipment for everyone.

The petition came ahead of a meeting held on December 10 of the Council for Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Discussions on a proposal to waive certain obligations in the TRIPS Agreement in relation to the prevention, containment or treatment of Covid-19 are on course.

WTO Head of External Relations Bernard Kuiten thanked Avaaz for giving citizens worldwide a global platform to express their concerns.

“In order to leave this devastating pandemic behind us, international co-operation and co-ordination are crucial,” he said.

The petition addresses the negative impact that intellectual property (IP) barriers have had in the past and could have on the manufacturing and supply of lifesaving Covid-19 materials.

For instance, Gilead, the patent holder on Remdesivir, the only drug so far approved specifically to treat Covid-19, have priced it at $2,340 for a five-day treatment course in most countries. This is despite receiving more than $70 million in public funding to develop it. Research that has shown it can be manufactured for as little as $9 per treatment course.