This weekend in Porto, the heads of state and government of the Summit of 27 will discuss the lifting of patents on anti-Covid-19 vaccines, for which the United States and Europe agree.
"The European Union supports the 'third way' led by the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to provide vaccines to the whole world". The announcement is from Charles Michel, President of the European Council. The Heads of State and Government will discuss, this May 7 and 8 in Port, during the Summit of 27, the lifting of patents on vaccines against Covid-19.
Washington would not be opposed to Europe's opinion: “This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures. The US administration strongly believes in intellectual property protections, but to end this pandemic, it supports the lifting of patents on vaccines, ”said US Trade Representative Katherine Tai.
Since the start of vaccination campaigns all over the planet, the number of doses administered in rich and poor countries has increased inexorably. And Africa, highly dependent on the Covax mechanism, is struggling to vaccinate. "If we don't lift patent rights today, then under what other circumstance will we do it?" “, Wondered Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The United States' agreement to temporarily lift patents on anti-Covid vaccines would therefore be historic. The director general of the WHO believes that this will promote "vaccine equity" and "prioritize the well-being of all everywhere at this crucial time". However, decisions must now be taken quickly, and in a united manner.
The disappointed pharmaceutical industry
But it will be necessary, for the United States and Europe, to accept the wrath of the pharmaceutical companies, which currently hold the monopoly of the vaccines. Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna have remained silent for the moment. But already, the International Federation of the Pharmaceutical Industry (IFPMA) has indicated that it is not “totally in line with the objective that anti-Covid 19 vaccines are quickly and equitably shared around the world”. The IFPMA just “disappointing” the American announcement and assures us that “a suspension is the simple but false answer to a complex problem”.
For IFPMA, the suspension of patents "will further weaken already strained supply chains and promote the proliferation of counterfeit vaccines". But within the African Union, and particularly the Africa CDC, considering this solution is a relief. "We are at an impasse as a continent", explained last month Dr John Nkengasong, Africa director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who says that "access to vaccines has been limited for us. as a continent and this affects the way we deploy our immunization program ”.
While the African health authorities aim to vaccinate more than 20% of the continent's inhabitants, before the end of the year, the discussions at the Summit of 27 in Porto will be crucial. Because time is running out and, after the words, it will be necessary to take action.