News Release

Future of Covid-19 Vaccine Patent Waivers Is in Doubt


More than a year after the first Covid-19 vaccines went into use, only 15 percent of people in low-income countries have received a single dose of the vaccine. Last month, leaked documents showed that the United States, the European Union, India and South Africa had reached consensus on a possible compromise that would only suspend patents for three or five years–– a proposal that was met with a backlash from activists urging President Biden to reject it. On March 30, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced that no agreement had been reached. 

Tahir Amin––the cofounder and co-executive director of I-MAK, an organization with the express purpose of reshaping patent law to better serve public health––told the Institute for Public Accuracy that the compromise was a “half-baked solution. That it took 17 months to come up with a text that falls so far short is a failure of multilateralism.”

TAHIR AMIN,, @realtahiramin 

    The proposed compromise text is not the full waiver of IP [intellectual property] rights that South Africa and India had originally proposed back in October 2020,” Amin said today. “Instead, it mostly restates what countries can already do under the current rules of the TRIPS Agreement. The text represents everything that the U.S. and European Union have indicated they would be prepared to agree to––and very little of what India, South Africa, and all the other sponsoring and supporting countries of the TRIPS waiver asked for. 

    “It shows––as has always been the case, since the idea of the WTO and TRIPS Agreement first emerged and were then created in 1995––that the Global North and their corporations hold the power. The structure of the WTO is not democratic or built to allow Global South countries equity in the political economy of innovation. 

    “Given the history of the last 28 years of the TRIPS Agreement and the various attempts Global South countries have made to address the ongoing barriers of IP to access medicines, vaccines and climate change technologies, India, South Africa and other member states of the WTO from the Global South would be advised to reject the compromise and go back to the table to push for more. Signing the compromise text would be a step backwards for the Global South, repeating the last 28 years of policy failure at the WTO. They can ill afford that, as we are not yet out of this pandemic and are likely to experience more pandemics––as well as the climate crisis––going forward.”