PHM Canada has signed on to a global solidarity letter to oppose a WTO plan that would undermine a true TRIPS waiver for COVID vaccines and tests.

To view the letter and to sign on, please click here.

Dear President Ramaphosa and Prime Minister Modi,

We are civil society organisations, campaigners, and experts from around the world who have supported and celebrated your international leadership for a comprehensive TRIPS Waiver. The deadly inequality in access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments was caused by pharmaceutical company greed and rich countries’ narrow self-interest. It was entirely avoidable. However, you have fought for an urgently needed alternative; where every country has the right to produce and import the life-saving tools needed to protect lives and to control this virus.

We now face a critical moment. Your vision is under enormous threat. A recently leaked discussion text bears no resemblance to your TRIPS Waiver proposal. It is instead the lowest common denominator of European Union’s opposition to waiving intellectual property barriers and United States Government’s insistence that it be limited to vaccines and exclude certain countries.

Worse still, it would inexplicably and unjustifiably erect more barriers to manufacturing life-saving medical technologies, including adding an impossible requirement to list every patent related to a vaccine. There is also a risk it could prevent the export of surplus vaccines to other countries in need. And by imposing new constraints and undermining the existing WTO flexibilities in the pandemic context, it represents a step backwards from an already untenable status quo.

The text mostly includes a set of general clarifications of existing WTO rules on compulsory licensing and patents, but restricts these only to COVID-19 products. Confidential information locked up as trade secrets is critical to produce COVID-19 vaccines and other technologies, but the leaked text fails to waive these and other intellectual property barriers. The extreme inequality in access to therapeutics and diagnostics is costing lives and harming countries’ socio-economic recovery but, in line with the US Government position, the text excludes these lifesaving tools and focuses only on vaccines. Moreover, it excludes some countries and overall sets a very harmful precedent for future health crises.

We know that the blame for this inadequate text does not lie with your governments, who have worked tirelessly to deliver a TRIPS waiver. The European Union and other rich countries have chosen to block the path to an early exit from this pandemic. They have put the lives of millions of people at risk by perpetuating vaccine inequality, creating the perfect breeding ground for new and potentially more dangerous or vaccine-resistant variants. They have looked the other way while millions have died needlessly because developing countries were not given the rights and the technology to make or import COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments.

There has been no agreement on the leaked text. We urge you to continue to stand firm at this critical moment, to say no, and to reject this inadequate proposal. Without significant changes to the text, including the unconditional waiver of obstructive TRIPS obligations, we will continue to see preventable deaths from COVID-19 and the global south will remain unprepared for the next major health crisis.

Now is the time to stand together with the co-sponsors of the TRIPS Waiver to demand the major changes required to achieve a meaningful response to this pandemic. We stand with you and support your vision of a world where lives are valued above the profits of pharmaceutical corporations.