By Haruna Gimba
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) had applauded the announcement from United States Trade Representative, Katherine Tai supporting the waiving of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) protections for COVID-19 vaccines.
UNAIDS Executive-Director, Winnie Byanyima said it is the kind of global leadership the world desperately needs as horrific scenes are being witnessed in countries like India, “where only nine in 100 people have been vaccinated.”
According to her, more than 1.1 billion doses of vaccine have been administered globally, saying more than 80 percent of those have been administered in high- and upper-middle income countries, “while just 0.3% has been administered in low-income countries.”
She said: “We are in a race to vaccinate the majority of the world’s population to curb death tolls and before more potent variants of COVID-19 emerge, rendering current vaccines ineffective.
“The faster we can scale up global vaccine supply, the faster we can contain the virus and the less chance we will face a day when variants prove resistant to existing vaccines. As the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres has said “no one is safe until everyone is safe.”
Health Reporters gathered that the TRIPS waiver would enable the sharing of technologies, data, know-how, patents and other intellectual property rights across the world.
The announcement of the US administration sends a powerful signal to the rest of the G7 and to the European Union to also support the World Trade Organization (WTO) TRIPS waiver and inspire other countries to take a powerful stand in favour of people before profits. This remarkable position from the United States government is a fundamental step towards a People’s Vaccine.
“To ensure everyone, everywhere has access to a lifesaving vaccine, we also need to see a pooling of technology through the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, as well as financing to help build a network of vaccine manufacturing in developing countries,” Byanyima said adding that “These three actions can together build a sustainable system to vaccinate the world, reach the needed herd immunity and open the paths to make the world best prepared for future pandemics”.
The UNAIDS executive director added that as the world learned from 40 years of fighting AIDS, equitable access to medical technologies is critical both for saving lives and for decreasing the impact of infectious diseases on people, communities and nations.
“We are grateful to President Joe Biden and his administration for the generous humanitarian pledges made on COVID-19 and for today’s announcement,” she concluded.