On the 29th of last month, the Global Council of Unions, a consultative body of global trade unions, including the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), issued a statement calling for the temporary abolition of the patent rights for the COVID-19 vaccine monopolized by multinational pharmaceutical companies. . More than two years have passed since the outbreak of COVID-19 at the global level, in order to protect the lives of workers and people who are on the edge of the brink, the monopoly on vaccine technology should be eased and through this, countries around the world should increase the production capacity of the COVID-19 vaccine. argument.
The Global Trade Union Council believes that while prompt testing and treatment of the COVID-19 virus is important, vaccination is currently the most reliable solution. He emphasized the need to limit the exclusive right to vaccine patents, which is insisted on by a small number of countries, such as the UK, Germany, Switzerland and the European Commission, for the public goal of ‘life over money’. In relation to the COVID-19 vaccine, the World Trade Organization (WTO) is urging to temporarily suspend the application of the ‘Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs)’. This is what the governments of South Africa and India have consistently proposed at the WTO meeting.
The vaccine and treatment for COVID-19 are drugs that fall under the patents of the TRIPs Agreement, and exclusive rights are granted to the patent holders. According to the TRIPs Agreement, the manufacture or sale of substances for making vaccines and therapeutics by third parties without the consent of the patentee is prohibited. It is also prohibited for third parties to process and produce without the consent of the patent holder. In addition, the patentee has the right to transfer the patent right by assignment or inheritance, and to conclude a license for use.
However, this monopoly of knowledge is becoming a decisive obstacle to solving the global infectious disease problem. Therefore, the Global Trade Union Council’s position is that by temporarily suspending the intellectual property rights monopolized by multinational pharmaceutical companies, universal use of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments and universal access to related technologies should be made possible.
The current WTO system allows ‘Compulsory Licensing’, which restricts the ‘Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement’ to allow public access to existing patented technologies to solve public health problems such as COVID-19. are doing Through this, governments of each country can use (compulsory implementation) the technology for producing COVID-19 vaccines without the approval of the patent holder for public interest purposes under national emergencies or emergencies.
WTO Secretary-General Ngoji Okonjoiweala, a Nigerian native, has urged developing countries to license the COVID-19 vaccine to expedite production. He emphasized that the WTO should be flexible in intellectual property issues, saying that it is not idle enough to argue about patent protection for vaccines and therapeutics in a global crisis. However, this position has been consistently rejected at WTO meetings by some developed countries that have exclusive rights to COVID-19 vaccine technology.
The Global Trade Union Council recalled the International Monetary Fund’s analysis that failure to equitable access to vaccines and therapeutics at the global level could result in global GDP losses of $5.3 trillion over the next five years. Production and consumption will take an unprecedented hit.” He pointed out that if proper vaccination is not carried out at the global level, the COVID-19 situation will be prolonged and trigger an economic crisis.
According to the Global Trade Union Council, governments of 100 countries, including the United States, China, and Australia, are supporting the temporary abolition of intellectual property rights for COVID-19-related drugs. The governments of Germany, Britain and Switzerland, who are opposed to this, should also change their existing position of defending the interests of multinational pharmaceutical companies and join this global campaign, the Global Trade Union Council argues.
According to ‘Our World in Data’, 42.98% of the world’s 7 billion people are vaccinated and 11.40% are partially vaccinated. This means that 45% of the world’s population has never been vaccinated. Vaccination rates in low-income countries are around 6%. The inoculation completion rate in Korea is over 80%, which is more than 10 times higher than Africa’s 7.3%.
By Yoon Hyo-won, staff reporter ([email protected])