Thank you for contacting me about the proposal submitted by India and South Africa regarding a waiver for the provisions of the Agreement on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement).
Covid-19 is a global emergency requiring rapid action to expand production and distribution of vaccines worldwide. What is now needed is the scaling-up of vaccine production, while keeping in mind associated risks: not undermining our capacity to fight other diseases, or the quality and safety of medicines. The aim must be to increase supply.
Complementary to scaling-up vaccine manufacturing capacity is the development and distribution of vaccines worldwide in which the UK is proud to be playing a global leading role. That is why the UK has helped to raise $1 billion for the Covid-19 COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) through match-funding other donors, which, combined with the £548 million of UK aid pledged, will help distribute at least 1.3 billion doses of vaccines to 92 developing countries this year alone. The Government has also provided funding for the AstraZeneca vaccine, produced at cost to low and middle-income countries, at scale and through manufacturing partnerships across the world.
I am aware of other WTO members’ developing views on a proposed waiver of some provisions of the TRIPS Agreement to tackle Covid-19, and the UK is engaging with the US and other WTO members constructively on the TRIPS waiver issue. Any negotiations, however, in the WTO on a possible waiver will require unanimous support, which could take a significant amount of time. While the UK will constructively engage in the IP discussions, I believe we must also continue to push ahead with action now including via voluntary licensing and tech transfer agreements for vaccines and support for COVAX.
The Prime Minister has said that the UK will donate the majority of any vaccines that are surplus to UK needs with COVAX to support developing countries. This will provide a fair and equitable distribution of vaccines to countries which are most in need and where they will be most effective, and this is an approach I fully support.
Thank you again for contacting me about this issue.
Sally-Ann Hart MP