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Wednesday Night: Candlelight Vigil in Front of White House Demanding More Leadership from the U.S. to End the Pandemic   

WHAT: Activists will hold a candlelight vigil on Wednesday evening in front of the White House marking one year since President Joe Biden announced U.S. support for the TRIPS waiver at the World Trade Organization (WTO). One year later, as President Biden and world leaders prepare for next week’s Global COVID Summit, the WTO has failed to deliver this important waiver, pharmaceutical companies continue to refuse to share vaccine technology, and funding for the global COVID response is drying up – all while the pandemic rages across the globe..

The candlelight vigil will include a projector and oversized screen which will play videos from Be A Hero’s, Ady Barkan, and other videos from health providers and public health experts. from South Africa, India and Chile. They will call on President Biden to secure a true Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver that covers COVID-19 vaccines, testing, and treatments and demand that Congress pass funding to vaccinate the world and save lives.

WHEN: 8 p.m. ET, Weds., May 4

WHERE: Lafayette Park in front of the White House fence

For more information, please contact Matthew Groch (mgroch@citizen.org).

BACKGROUND: In October 2020, India and South Africa proposed a waiver of World Trade Organization (WTO) intellectual property barriers that impose barriers on global production of COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments. On May 5, 2021, people across the globe celebrated the Biden administration’s support of the waiver, which would suspend WTO enforcement of intellectual property barriers that provide pharmaceutical firms with lengthy monopoly rights to control supplies of vaccines, tests, and treatments. – even in a global pandemic when there simply are not enough being timely made.

The U.S. announcement initially created momentum for a waiver, which now enjoys the support of the vast majority of WTO member nations. But a year later, in the absence of U.S. leadership to deliver a waiver deal, the European Union has blocked progress on a waiver of WTO TRIPS rules.

On March 15, 2022, a leaked text emerged that is significantly worse than the original proposal. The worst elements of this proposal being pushed by the WTO Director-General can be traced directly to the European Union and the U.S. Civil society and academic experts around the world have called the leaked text “the lowest common denominator,” an “abomination,” and “worse than nothing.” But it’s not a done deal yet.

This leaked text:

  • Would impose new barriers on countries attempting to remove intellectual property barriers and increase COVID medicines production. Instead of waiving barriers, it would impose new conditions limiting the existing WTO rules that now allow countries to issue compulsory licenses for patented products, for example a new obligation to identify all patents covered by a waiver application.
  • Does not cover COVID tests or treatments. The leaked text would cover only vaccines, at a stage in the pandemic when world leaders acknowledge that testing and treatments are critically important. Tests and treatments are to be considered six months later if this text is agreed to, but the WTO is notorious for missing deadlines.
  • Does not cover all of the intellectual property barriers to COVID medicine access. It reiterates existing rules on patents while adding new barriers. It does not even address the other categories of intellectual property covered in the original waiver proposal: trade secrets, undisclosed data, copyright, and industrial design. Many key COVID-19 vaccines and medicines are protected by thorny thickets of intertwined IP protection, not just a patent or two.
  • Excludes entire countries. It applies only to “developing countries” that “exported <10%” of the world’s vaccines in 2021 (which would exclude China and Brazil), as well as developed countries that might export to countries in need. It may also inadvertently exclude least developed countries.

Advocates across the globe are calling for the WTO to urgently deliver a waiver that can help ensure that all countries are equipped with the tools needed to save lives and bring the pandemic under control.