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A petition is calling on the Australian government to support a push to waive Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) for COVID-19 vaccines at a meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) this Friday to enable more equitable vaccine access for pandemic-stricken countries.

On Friday, the Morrison government will attend the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) council meeting at the WTO.

Since October last year, India and South Africa have been calling on countries at the WTO to temporarily suspend trade rules for patents, industrial designs, copyright and ‘know how’ to allow production of COVID-19 vaccines to be ramped up, thus increasing accessibility and affordability worldwide.

According to the petition, launched by Union Aid Abroad APHEDA and the ACTU, as the globe has continued to battle the pandemic, with countries such as India recording 300,000 cases per day, Australia has put profits before people and sided with large pharmaceutical companies by blocking and delaying passage of the waiver.

A lack of access to COVID-19 vaccines will further entrench global inequality and threaten millions of lives, the petition states, with residents of wealthy and middle-income countries having received about 90% of the almost 400 million vaccines administered so far.

India and South Africa is proposing the WTO waiver certain provisions that give owners of the IP property exclusive rights over the manufacture and sale of COVID-19 vaccines. The waiver would only apply to COVID-19 medical products and only for the duration of the pandemic.

The move would allow these countries and others to make COVID-19 vaccines, making them more rapidly available to poorer countries at a lower cost. The proposal has been supported by 118 of 164 countries on WTO, but not Australia.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), along with other leading nursing associations across the world, wrote a joint letter to the WTO supporting the waiver.

Now, the Stop blocking the COVID-19 vaccine waiver at the WTO! petition is calling on the Australian government to:

  1. Stop blocking vaccine access and support the waiver for manufacture and sale of effective COVID-19 vaccines within the World Trade Organization to enable broad rapid vaccine access at lower prices for Africa, Asia and Latin America.
  2. Join the WHO COVID-19 Technology Access Pool – a mechanism to facilitate the sharing of knowhow and intellectual property to enable any manufacturer or government to produce COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and other health technologies.

The petition says it is time for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to “put people before profit” and support the crucial public health measure to increase the manufacture and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines.

To take action and send a message to Scott Morrison, sign the petition here