Enough vaccine, may not need WTO waiver proposal, says Adham

08-May-2021 Intellasia | FreeMalaysiaToday | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Malaysia may not need to adopt the proposal at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to suspend intellectual property rights temporarily as more Covid-19 vaccine suppliers and supplies are expected to be added to expedite the national vaccination programme, says health minister Dr Adham Baba.

CanSino is at the final stage of approval, approval of Sputnik V is still pending while IMBCAMS is applying for approval, he said.

“We are not too affected by delays. With increased supplies, the country should be able to speed up its vaccination programme and may even complete the whole process earlier,” he told FMT.

Adham said this when asked whether Malaysia should adopt the WTO waiver proposal to expedite the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme and, at the same time, address programme coordinating minister Khairy Jamaluddin’s concern over the lack of vaccine supplies for Phase 3, which is supposed to begin in May.

He also said that 3.5 million doses are coming in from three suppliers this month AstraZeneca (one million), Pfiser-BioNTech (one million), and Sinovac (1.5 million).

Adham said there should still be enough and with more vaccines in the coming months, Malaysia could complete the programme by end of the year instead of February.

But if vaccine equity is still a concern as a result of shortage, he said, he would prefer to propose to the Cabinet to consider the legal provision of compulsory licensing (CL) or voluntary licensing (VL).

A CL refers to the use of a patented product without the authorisation of the right holder. WTO members could issue a CL when negotiations for a reasonable price or a voluntary license to import or manufacture a patented product from the patent holder fail.

He said vaccine equity concern was also brought to the attention of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Malaysia will use its platform to give feedback.

“The health ministry, science, technology and innovation ministry and domestic trade and consumer affairs ministry will study the proposal submitted to the WTO,” he said.

The WTO proposal, which was initially jointly submitted by India and South Africa on October 2 last year, calls for certain provisions of the WTO Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement that cover patents, trade secrets, copyright and industrial designs to be suspended temporarily.

Civil society organisations had also claimed that some of the richest member countries such as the US, the European Union, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Norway and Australia were blocking the proposal.

However, on Wednesday, the US reversed its position. Its trade representative, Katherine Tai, released a statement announcing the Biden-Harris administration’s support for waiving intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines.

“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,” she said.

Following the announcement, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed the US’ decision as a “monumental moment in the fight against #Covid-19″.

In Malaysia, 28 organisations and three community activists have sent two letters to prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin on November 11 and February 3 urging the government to adopt the WTO waiver proposal but no answer has been given.

Currently, 60 countries have co-sponsored the waiver proposal with support from most of the other developing countries.



Category: Malaysia

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