Australia Supports Waiving Intellectual Property Protection for Covid-19 Vaccines

Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism, and Investment, Dan Tehan, said in a statement delivered that the nation will support an international push to waive the Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) for Covid-19 vaccines. The decision came as the rising infection rate across the globe is prolonging the pandemic and creating new deadly variants of the virus.

Both South Africa and India have led the campaign and put in a lot of effort to change the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and make it convenient for the low and middle-income nations to manufacture and sell affordable generic copies of the COVID-19 vaccines, which are produced by pharmaceutical giants such as Pfizer.

Even the United States threw its weight behind the proposal earlier this year by saying that extraordinary measures were required to boost the global production of Covid-19 vaccines for helping fight the spread of the virus.

Australia’s position, in this scenario, has slightly always been more ambiguous. Although the federal government appreciated the announcement made by Biden’s administration and has time and again expressed its support for negotiations on the matter, it has fallen short of expressing its support for the waiver itself. Various advocacy groups that have been urging the government to back the waiver for quite a while now met Mr. Tehan recently and said that he made a private commitment concerning the nation supporting the proposal. Mr. Tehan seemed to confirm that position publicly when the reporters asked about clarifying Australia’s stance. He said that when it comes to Covid-19, the nation will always support the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver. He further said that Australia would continue working efficiently in Geneva for expanding the global production of vaccines, which would make everyone across the globe have access to the vaccine and keep them safe.

The human rights and advocacy groups campaigning on the issue stated that the government’s position shifted in this case. For instance, this year, in June, Mr. Tehan stated that the Australian government wasn’t opposed to the proposal and was well prepared to look at the vaccine waiver; however, it went no further on the matter.

The Convener of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, Patricia Ranald, welcomed Mr. Tehan’s change from support on the matter to actually supporting the TRIPS waiver by saying that “actions speak louder than words.”

The WTO meeting is making progress as a critical one for the nations promoting the waiver. The waiver has received immense support from the less wealthy, developing countries; however, many European countries blocked the proposal earlier this year at a WTO meeting as they thought that waiving IP Protection might discourage the pharmaceutical companies from investing money into R&D.

The Australian federal government has also drawn attention to the fact that the waiver might not be sufficient in itself to increase the production of Covid-19 vaccines across the globe, primarily because most nations don’t have production facilities at an advanced level and skilled labor required to produce them.

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