Quad’s New Vaccine Financing Agreement Is Helpful, But Not a Substitute for Other Administrative Actions

Biden Must Still Support Emergency WTO Waiver of Big Pharma Monopoly Rights

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Friday morning, the U. S., India, Japan and Australia, meeting as “The Quad,” will announce new funding arrangements to boost the production of COVID-19 vaccines in India. Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, issued the following statement:

“A vaccine financing agreement with India is one step forward, but much more needs to be done quickly to end the global pandemic including the Biden administration getting on the right side of history and joining the 100-plus countries that support a temporary, emergency waiver of WTO rules and promoting technology sharing and investing heavily in vaccine production so vaccines, treatments and test can be made in many countries as possible.

“Unless production is scaled up massively, many people in developing countries will not be vaccinated until 2024. Current WTO rules require countries to provide pharmaceutical corporations with monopoly control of how much and where COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostic tests are produced.

“This is a race against time. The sort of contract manufacturing that will be supported in India can add to the number of doses available and shows that developing countries have manufacturing capacity to boost COVID-19 vaccines supply if given access to the technology. But one-off deals alone cannot win the battle against COVID-19. And production in developing countries cannot be reliant on only contract manufacturing, which is conditioned on the approval of rich nations and Big Pharma.

“Consider the terms that South Africa’s Councilor to the WTO report that South African pharmaceutical firm Aspen must meet in its contract to manufacture Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine: 91% of the doses produced in South Africa must be sent for sale in Europe while the South African firm is only allowed to provide 9% of its output for use in South Africa.

“The pandemic cannot be stopped anywhere unless vaccines, tests, and treatments are available everywhere. Outbreaks anywhere mean variants can develop that are more infectious, deadly or that evade current vaccines. If new vaccine-resistant variants develop in countries where the absence of vaccinations means COVID-19 can rage, the U.S. will be thrown back into lockdown and high death rates even if the population is vaccinated against current variants.

“Reversing the Trump administration’s block against the temporary ‘Waiver from Certain Provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for the Prevention, Containment and Treatment of COVID-19’ supported by more than 100 nations at the WTO is not only the morally right thing to do, it is also in the U.S. national interest.

“The answer must be yes to wherever contract manufacturing can translate to more doses AND a waiver of WTO intellectual property monopolies so more capacity can be developed to ensure sufficient supply and equitable decisions about how additional doses will be distributed.

“Preparing countries for the future by ensuring global resilience and adaptability to coronavirus variants requires sharing technology openly, so that the world’s scientists and manufacturers can improve on today’s technology, lower costs, expand supply and respond to local needs.”