Proposals by the World Health Organization (WHO) for temporarily waiving intellectual property rights for tools to fight COVID-19 will feature again next week at a meeting of the World Trade Organization, WTO.
According to the WHO, the intellectual property waiver is to allow other countries to make vaccines more quickly. In the past, such proposals have been opposed by rich countries with big pharmaceutical industries.
Incoming WTO head, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria, says her top priority is to ensure the global trade body does more to address the COVID-19 pandemic. She described disparities in vaccine rates between rich and poor as unconscionable.
The 164-member WTO body usually has to agree by consensus unless members agree to proceed to a rare vote.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) is worried that countries making deals with drug companies for their own COVID-19 vaccine doses can threaten the global COVAX programme for poor and middle-income countries.
The WHO has been appealing to rich countries to ensure that vaccines are shared equitably.
The global COVAX programme aims at supplying one-point-three billion vaccine doses to poor and middle-income countries this year. But so far, COVAX has had a slow roll-out.