France to work with WHO, WTO to ensure intellectual property never becomes obstacle in accessing COVID-19 vaccines

·6-min read
French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday (local time) discussing about universal access to COVID-19 vaccine (ANI)
French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday (local time) discussing about universal access to COVID-19 vaccine (ANI)

Paris [France], June 11 (ANI): French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday said that Paris will work with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) to ensure that intellectual property never becomes an obstacle to accessing COVID-19 vaccines

"Intellectual property must never block these technology transfers and the ability to produce. This is why we have decided to put on the table with South Africa for this G7 a proposal which allows us to work on a time- and space-limited exemption of this intellectual property," said Macron.

TRIPS waiver over vaccines was first proposed by India and South Africa.

"It is an initial proposal from India and South Africa that we have worked on, that we still want to work on with the WHO, the WTO, all our partners. But I hope that it will lead to an agreement at this G7 summit. In this context, and to complete my response on this subject, we are also defending in the short term the idea that the donation of vaccines by States should be complemented by a donation of vaccines by pharmaceutical laboratories," said Macron.

"We must work with @WHO and @WTO to ensure intellectual property will never be an obstacle to accessing vaccines [...] It's an initial proposal from India & South Africa that we are working on [...] I hope there will be an agreement at the G7 summit," tweeted Emmanuel Lenain, Ambassador of France to India on Thursday.

Macron also discussed about universal access to COVID-19 vaccine and its target, transparency of prices, intellectual property and export restrictions prior to G7 summit to be held in Cornwall in Britain from June 11-13.

In a press conference in Paris, Macron focussed upon the health issues that sprung across the world after COVID-19 outbreak. He said that G7 summit is a moment of collective re-engagement and clarification.

"First, we need to define a target. There is a lot of talk about vaccines, a lot of goals, and I am suspicious of goals when it comes to adding up billions without a clear timetable and results to be achieved," said Macron.

He informed that in a discussion with the US, he found Africa met the criteria to be the first recipient continent to have these vaccines.

"I think that it is the African recipient States are best able to qualify the objectives that we must set for ourselves, have convinced me that we must aim, above all, at a target percentage of the population to be vaccinated," said the French President.

African Crisis Agency (CDC Africa) has defined 60 per cent of Africans to be vaccinated by the end of the first quarter of 2022, with a target of 40 per cent by the end of 2021.

"This is a higher target than the one we committed to under COVAX, which is the vehicle through which the international community committed to providing these vaccines, which was only 20 per cent. I think this is the right objective and it is the one that we must endorse in the framework of this G7," said Macron.

"We have committed to donating 30 million vaccines this year, and therefore by the end of 2021. Just as Germany has committed to donating 30 million vaccines to date, which allows the European Union to reach, at least, the objective of 100 million," added Macron.

France has already transferred more than 800,000 vaccines via COVAX and 1.7 million will be transferred to 14 African countries by the end of the month.

"I am delighted that the United States is fully joining the initiative and committing itself to this course. In the short term, this is the objective: 40 per cent by the end of the year, 60 per cent by the end of the first quarter of 2022," said the French President.

Macron said that in order to fulfil the objective, it was necessary to lift all export restrictions. He said, "To enable and strengthen it, we must also lift all export restrictions. And the G7 must make it possible to remove all these obstacles. As we know, there have been export bans by several G7 member countries which have blocked production in other countries and sometimes blocked production in middle-income countries, which is essential for the production of vaccines for the poorest countries."

Taking the example of India, particularly the Serum Institute of India that has been blocked in its production by export restrictions on the ingredients needed to produce these vaccines from certain G7 economies, he said, "These restrictions must be lifted both so that India can produce more for itself and so that it can very quickly supply the Africans in particular, who are very dependent on its production."

Regarding vaccine donations, Macron said, "Others want to buy back vaccines. Some also want to produce to donate. This will be the core of the American strategy. All strategies are obviously good as long as they allow us to reach our goal of vaccination and population coverage, in accordance with the World Health Organization's objective."

He also commented on the transparency of vaccine prices. "Today, there is no reference price for the COVAX mechanism, nor for the doses it buys back, nor for the recipient countries. Price transparency is an essential element in terms of justice and efficiency. Today, we do not know the price at which COVAX sells the doses to the pharmaceutical companies. In doing so, African states, which have rightly decided to supplement these initiatives with their own purchases, often buy at two to three times the price that we, the richest states, pay. This is a complete injustice that must be corrected here. We must obtain price transparency not for the contracts that bind the laboratories with the richest States or the international community. This is a matter of business law and we want to respect it, but for the solidarity mechanisms, we need price transparency that will allow the poorest states to have reference prices for their purchases," told Macron.

Regarding the question of intellectual property and Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) on coronavirus vaccines he said that the developed nations must allow the poorest and middle-income countries to produce the vaccines for themselves.

"In the very short term, we must give and produce to give, but we must, as soon as possible, allow the economies that can to produce for themselves, and in particular for Africa. I believe that this is a matter of consideration, but it is also a matter of collective efficiency," said Macron.

Africa represents about 20 per cent in terms of vaccines, while it only has the production capacity for 1 per cent of vaccines.

"So, what we need to do is accelerate technology transfer and capacity building for production in all the countries that can produce, in the poorest or middle-income regions. It's not going to cover the requirement in the next six months. But in the next 12-18 months, we can start production on the basis of existing capacity," he said. (ANI)