Philippines backs call to waive patent protection on COVID-19 vaccines

Jauhn Etienne Villaruel and Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 06 2021 06:18 PM

Residents, including those categorized under A5 or indigents in Mandaluyong City, line up for their COVID-19 vaccine dose on June 16, 2021. Some cities have started inocculating their indigent residents with vaccines made by Pfizer as part of the prioritization framework of the World Health Organization. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News
Residents, including those categorized under A5 or indigents in Mandaluyong City, line up for their COVID-19 vaccine dose on June 16, 2021. Some cities have started inocculating their indigent residents with vaccines made by Pfizer as part of the prioritization framework of the World Health Organization. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Philippines' Foreign Affairs chief on Friday said the country was backing the proposal filed before the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive intellectual property protection on COVID-19 vaccines to enable poorer countries to produce its own coronavirus jabs. 

"[We need to] speed up vaccine production worldwide and enable developing countries to produce vaccine. We need to start with the adoption of WTO's proposal to waive intellectual property protections on vaccines," Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. said in a video message before the International Forum on COVID-19 Vaccine Cooperation, hosted by China.

Locsin was pertaining to the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver, a South African and Indian proposal filed at the 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.

Locsin said local production of vaccines is better than any other pandemic strategy to combat COVID-19 infection. 

"Strategically dispersed local production of vaccines is a lifeline and a net cast faster, farther, and wider than any alternative strategy." 

Meanwhile, Locsin also sang praises for China-made COVID-19 vaccines, saying they arrived "first on the scene" during the height of infections last year. 

"The Chinese vaccines were first on the scene, the most effective at the time and the safest to take because they relied on tried and tested science and technology," Locsin said.

China, in the forum, joined the call for efforts to "achieve the accessibility and affordability of vaccines in developing countries" and strengthen cooperation between governments, enterprises and international organizations "to provide vaccines for developing countries, especially the least developed countries, as much as possible," according to a statement released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

The participants of the forum also expressed opposition to “vaccine nationalism” and called for the lifting of export restrictions on vaccines and raw materials, and “support domestic companies in international cooperation on vaccine research, development and production.”

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