PH urged to support IP waiver for easier COVID-19 vaccine access

Jasmin Romero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 27 2021 10:06 PM

PH urged to support IP waiver for easier COVID-19 vaccine access 1
Vials of Sinopharm, Sputnik V and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. Marko Djurica, Reuters/file

MANILA - The Philippines should support the intellectual property rights waiver to allow poorer countries to have easier access to COVID-19 vaccines, according to a health advocacy group. 

In a virtual forum, Coalition for People's Right to Health spokesperson Dr. Josh San Pedro said rich nations have secured 80 percent of the world's vaccines, leaving other countries with less supply.

"Some countries are ordering so much more than their population: Canada, the UK, European Union, Australia, the US... while other countries ay nagsu-suffer dahil kulang ang kanilang production at wala silang mabili because they have been out-ordered. That's the reality," said San Pedro.

(Other countries are suffering because their production is limited or they can't buy vaccines after being out-ordered)

Unlike other Asian neighbors, the Philippines cannot produce its own vaccines.

"May scarcity kaya nagpa-prioritize tayo ng mga sectors. Kaya tayo nagra-rush for bilateral deals... we are eagerly awaiting the COVAX deliveries and ang dami-dami na ngang loans. We are still continuing the tripartite agreements. We are basically left in a situation na parang helpless tayo," he said. 

(There is scarcity kaya we are prioritizing sectors. We are rushing for bilateral deals, too. We are eagerly awaiting the COVAX deliveries atop from our loans. It seemed we are helpless)

But there is something that the Philippines can do — drum up its support for the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver.

The TRIPS waiver, a South African and Indian proposal filed at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in November 2020, seeks to waive patent enforcement of COVID-19 technologies.

Its main objective is to allow poorer countries access to coronavirus vaccines, diagnostic tools, and therapeutic treatments by encouraging more production and improving global supply.

Their proposal is backed by dozens of largely developing countries at the WTO, but opposed by Western countries including Britain, Switzerland, EU nations and the United States, which have large domestic pharmaceutical industries.

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For the proposal to move, it needs a consensus of the WTO members. But member states are still nowhere near an agreement.

The Philippines has been using UK's AstraZeneca, American brand Pfizer, China's Sinovac, and Russia's Sputnik V in its inoculation program against COVID-19

It has taken delivery of some 8.279 million COVID-19 shots. Authorities have administered almost 4.5 million of these doses nationwide as of May 25.