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'UK, US and EU among those blocking vaccine manufacturing plans for developing nations'

Wealthy countries are blocking proposals to help developing nations increase their vaccine manufacturing capabilities, a BBC report said today.

According to the report, several developing countries have asked the World Health Organization to help them, but the richer nations have pushed back on "provisions in international law that would enable them to achieve this."

The revelations came through a copy of a document leaked to BBC Newsnight show.

Among those richer nations are the UK, the US, as well as the European Union, the BBC report says.

"Where we could have language in there that would make it easier for countries to produce more vaccines and more medicines within their country, it would include initiatives that would finance and facilitate that. The UK is on the opposite side of the argument of trying to remove those kinds of progressive proposals from the text," Diarmaid McDonald, from Just Treatment, a patient group for fair access to medicines, told the BBC.

The BBC quoted a spokesperson for the UK government as saying "a global pandemic requires a global solution and the UK is leading from the front, driving forward efforts to ensure equitable access around the world to Covid vaccines and treatments".

The spokesperson said the UK is one of the largest donors to international efforts to ensure over one billion doses of coronavirus vaccines get to developing countries this year.

"If and when governments should intervene to ensure affordable supplies of medicines is a long-standing issue," the report adds.

The pandemic has brought focus on the ability of different countries to source vaccines and many experts say equitable access to vaccines is essential to prevent cases and deaths and to contribute to global population immunity.

But the global capacity for producing vaccines is about a third of what is needed, Ellen t'Hoen, an expert in medicines policy and intellectual property law, told the BBC.

"These are vaccines that are produced in wealthy countries and are in general kept by those wealthy countries.

"Developing nations are saying we need to have a share of the pie, not only the share of the vaccines, but also the share of the right to produce these vaccines," she added.

According to the BBC report, the WHO does not have the authority to sidestep patents, but it is trying to bring countries together to find a way to bolster vaccine supplies.

The discussions include using provisions in international law to get around patents and helping countries to have the technical ability to make them.

But the drug industry argues that eroding patents would hinder its ability to invest in future treatments for Covid and other illnesses.

Earlier this month, representatives of the US drug industry wrote to US President Joe Biden to share their concerns, the BBC reports.

"Eliminating those protections would undermine the global response to the pandemic," they wrote, including ongoing efforts to tackle new variants.

It would also create confusion that could potentially undermine public confidence in vaccine safety, and create a barrier to information sharing, the representatives said.

"Most importantly, eliminating protections would not speed up production," they added.

Published : March 21, 2021

By : The Daily Start