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Narendra Modi: Economists and health experts urge Modi to reject compromise solution on vaccine exemption

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Public Health Foundation of India President Srinath Reddy, Nobel Laureate Joseph E Stiglitz, President of the Center for International Governance Innovation in Canada Rohinton P Medhora and Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, among others, have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to reject a misleading and ineffective proposal at the World Trade Organization (WTO) as it fails to waive intellectual property rules and would raise new barriers to the global supply of vaccines, treatments and tests.

Last month, a compromise outcome to contain and treat Covid-19 proposed a waiver for developing countries that exported less than 10% of global exports of Covid-19 vaccine doses in 2021. The text only covers vaccines while India and South Africa offer a waiver. – which is supported by 65 WTO members – covered vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics. The compromise text, called the outcome of the Quadrilateral Talks, was reached after talks between India, South Africa, the United States and the EU.

Despite your clear articulation of the need for a complete waiver of all blocking intellectual property barriers, not just patents, and the need for access to treatments and other medical countermeasures, not just vaccines, the draft recently disclosed does not waive IP barriers necessary to provide meaningful access to vaccines, treatments or tests, they said in a letter dated April 6 to Modi.

After that, civil society groups wrote to Modi criticizing the compromise outcome and urging India to reject the proposed text and resist unreasonable demands from the EU and US.

India and South Africa had proposed in 2020 to waive certain provisions relating to copyrights, industrial designs, patents and the protection of undisclosed information in the agreement on commercial aspects of copyrights. intellectual property (TRIPS) for the prevention, containment or treatment of Covid-19.

We fully support you in rejecting this misleading and ineffective proposal, which represents the European Union’s belligerent blockade of any real lifting of barriers to intellectual property and the United States’ insistence that the intellectual property waiver they support is limited to vaccines, economists and public health experts said in the letter written this week.

Signatories to the letter also include Professor Imraan Valodia, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Climate, Sustainability and Inequality, University of the Witwatersrand, Director of Johannesburg, Southern Center for Inequality Studies and Professor Mariana Mazzucato, Founding Director of the UCL Institute for Innovation & Public Purpose.

They said the leaked text reflected the interests of multinational pharmaceutical companies to preserve the murderous status quo and contrasted with the inspiring leadership of India and South Africa for a meaningful lifting of intellectual property barriers.

They insisted that a bad deal is worse than no deal offering strong backing to the prime minister if he rejects the proposal.

Signatories said the proposal does not remove the intellectual property barriers needed to provide meaningful access to vaccines, treatments or tests and actively adds binding new conditions for countries using non-voluntary licenses that are worse than the status quo.

Additionally, the text only covers Covid-19 vaccines, excluding life-saving treatments and diagnostics, especially when vaccines are in short supply. These tools are a crucial part of an arsenal to prevent, treat and contain Covid-19, they said.

We suspect that the interests defending this text may have told you that our concerns are exaggerated or have been taken into account, the experts said.

Explaining that the text has now been reviewed by numerous lawyers from universities and civil society groups around the world, they said a consensus has emerged that the text will not provide freedom of exploitation that manufacturers in the Global South need.

There must be no ambiguity going forward: the WTO must not tie the hands of countries like South Africa and India who are struggling to ensure that all are protected from the ravages of Covid-19 , they said, adding that any ambiguity will stifle the production and distribution of the drugs and products needed to protect the public.

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