After nearly two years of talks, the World Trade Organization reached an agreement to temporarily waive patent rights for Covid-19 vaccines, but the deal was criticized by both the pharmaceutical industry and advocacy groups as inadequate and harmful.
The agreement, which lasts for five years, allows a country to waive intellectual property protections on vaccines without the permission of the company that holds patent rights. The proposal was made after wealthy nations locked in supply contracts that quickly crowded out poorer countries from obtaining supplies, creating concerns that much of the world would remain unvaccinated.
The deal was lauded by the WTO, which was under pressure to reach some kind of agreement in order to burnish its reputation. “Now we have something in hand. Exciting to now be able to go to those factories that are being set up all over the developing world and to work with them and to see how this can actually be made real,” said WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at a press conference.
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