Canada still weighing support for vaccine patent waiver after U.S. confirms it will
OTTAWA -- The federal government still hasn’t offered its support of the waiver of intellectual property protections on COVID-19 vaccines to enhance their supply worldwide, even as the U.S. announced Wednesday it intends to do so.
Following a meeting with his G7 counterparts, Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said discussion on whether to lift patents, as was done in the AIDS crisis, was “very active” but said Canada is still weighing the options.
“Canada’s position is that we need to obtain more vaccines, we need to all put more money into the COVAX program, and by the way Canada is the fourth largest contributor to the COVAX program, and we need to discuss with manufactures whether they’re prepared to make licensing arrangements to allow greater production of the vaccine,” he said in an interview on CTV News Channel’s Power Play.
The U.S. joins nearly a hundred other countries that are in favour of a push spearheaded by India and South Africa to ease the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights rule that would help developing countries produce vaccines domestically in an effort to get them out more quickly.
Proposals to the WTO require consensus from the body’s 164 member states.
In a statement published Wednesday, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai wrote: “This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures. The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines.”
Director-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus applauded the decision in a tweet, stating it is a “monumental” move and a “powerful example” of American leadership in global health.
Garneau said waving the rights “has complications” but there are arguments on both sides. The government also maintains they will donate extra vaccine doses to COVAX, the global vaccine network, to help developing countries.
Dr. Samantha Nutt of War Child Canada told CTV News Channel’s Power Play the support of the U.S. in this move is a “game-changer” and it’s “a little confounding” Canada hasn’t followed suit.
“The United States put more than $10 billion into the development of these vaccines, so they have a lot of clout, a lot of influence, they’re a major global player and the fact that they’re taking this position I hope means we’re finally seeing some movement on this issue,” she said on Wednesday.
The NDP issued a statement calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to immediately take steps to align with the U.S. – pointing to the crisis in India as the need for urgent action.
“Instead of protecting big pharmaceutical companies’ profits, Justin Trudeau should be protecting human lives. These companies should not determine who should live or die. The Liberals need to stop putting the profits of big pharmaceuticals ahead of the health and well-being of people,” reads a press release.