The UK Government must act now to support WTO TRIPS waiver on IP for all COVID-19 medical tools

The UK Government must act now to support WTO TRIPS waiver on IP for all COVID-19 medical tools

In the wake of the US Government’s decision to support waiving intellectual property (IP) protections for COVID-19 vaccines, Médecins Sans Frontierès/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) UK is calling on the British Government to urgently back the proposal by South Africa and India for a “waiver” on IP on all COVID-19 medical technologies. The UK has continually blocked the proposal, which would remove the legal obstacles to increased production of COVID-19 medical products, including vaccines – despite increasing support from around the world.

Last night, the US joined over 100 other countries in supporting the proposal for the waiver, known as the “TRIPS waiver”.  In response, UK Trade Secretary Liz Truss has tweeted only that “The UK is working at the @wto to resolve this issue. We are in discussions with the US and others to facilitate the increased production and supply of Covid-19 vaccines.”

The UK Government is looking increasingly isolated in its continued opposition to the measure.

MSF UK is reiterating its call on the UK Government to add its support to this vital, life-saving measure to increase sufficient and timely access to all lifesaving medical tools as COVID-19 continues to ravage countries across the globe.

Shortages of diagnostics, treatments, and other lifesaving medical tools continue to add pressure to countries such as India and Brazil where the surging of cases has pushed health systems to the brink of collapse. Many of the low-income countries in which MSF operates have only received 0.3% of global COVID-19 vaccine supply while the UK has not only secured enough doses to protect its entire population but are now ordering a further 60m doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine for booster jabs.

Yesterday's decision by the US government is an important step towards global support for the TRIPS waiver which could provide countries with new options to address the limitations of existing WTO rules and remove legal uncertainties and barriers that may impede production and supply of COVID-19 medical products in advance. Throughout the seven months of negotiations at the WTO, MSF has been calling for the waiving of IP for all COVID-19 products, including vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics.

Vickie Hawkins, Executive Director of MSF-UK, said:

"We applaud this announcement and bold decision from the US administration that will help address the challenges we face in ensuring equitable access to lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines and medical products.

The UK Government must now stop dragging its feet. There is no more time to waste - this proposal has been discussed at the WTO for over seven months, now is the time to act. We know no one is safe until everyone is safe, to achieve this we need to ensure there are enough vaccines and medical tools for everyone around the world.

The UK Government’s continued opposition to this proposal is shameful – and is leaving them increasingly isolated in the world. Boris Johnson must urgently shift his position, and support the proposal put forward by India and South Africa.

As the US has shown, these are extraordinary circumstances that require unprecedented action - the UK must act now and decide to put people’s health before pharmaceutical profits and waive IP on all COVID-19 medical tools, including vaccines.”


Note to Editors: For more information please see the link below for MSF UK's letter to the Prime Minister.

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Emma Parkin Features and Documentaries Manager
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