US President Joe Biden has urged countries attending next week’s World Trade Organization (WTO) convention to waive intellectual property restrictions for coronavirus vaccines, as global concern mounts over a new coronavirus variant reported in South Africa.
- US President Joe Biden has invited countries of the World Trade Organization to remove intellectual property restrictions for coronavirus vaccines.
- Global anxiety is brewing over the revelation of a new coronavirus variant in South Africa. Omicron has been attributed to a recent uptick in infections.
- The US President has persuaded countries of the World Trade Organization to relax intellectual property restrictions for coronavirus vaccines.
- The European Union, as well as the United Kingdom and Switzerland, have all rejected calls for a coronavirus IP waiver.
Biden said in a statement Friday that the detection of the new variant proves that the pandemic will not be stopped until the entire world has equal access to vaccines.
“The discovery of this new variant should underscore why this pandemic will not stop unless we have universal vaccination,” Biden added. “Today’s news reaffirms the critical significance of acting promptly.”
On Friday the World Health Organization (WHO) designated the new coronavirus strain – named Omicron after a Greek letter – as a “variant of concern.” Omicron has been linked in South Africa for a spike in new infections.
Fears over the new variant’s prospective spread also led some countries, including the US, to implement travel restrictions for travelers from southern Africa on Thursday and Friday – a move condemned by South Africa’s health minister as “unjustified.”
Omicron’s emergence comes just days before WTO officials and 164 member states convene in Geneva on November 30.
Patent negotiations have struck a stalemate.
The World Trade Organization’s negotiations have stalled over India and South Africa’s proposal to forgo intellectual property (IP) rights on COVID-19 vaccines and supplies.
The European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland have all expressed opposition to such a move.
India has accused rich nations of “limiting impoverished countries’ access to vaccines,” resulting in deaths. Switzerland’s ambassador to the WTO, Didier Chambovey, stated on Thursday that the country is willing to compromise but continues to resist a full waiver.
Biden’s Friday statement notwithstanding, several public health professionals have argued that the US has not done enough to offer vaccines to other countries.
Whereas several poor nations have yet to widely administer first doses to their populace, the United States has recently advanced booster shots for Americans and approved the jabs for kids aged five to eleven.
The European Union, as well as the United Kingdom and Switzerland, have argued against a patent waiver for coronavirus vaccines.
The US imposes travel restrictions on South African countries
On Friday, Biden stated that the US has delivered more vaccines globally than all other nations combined, and that earlier this year, the US publicly supported IP waivers for COVID-19 vaccines, a stance that was applauded by the WHO chief.
“I urge the nations convening next week for the World Trade Organization’s ministerial conference to accept the United States’ challenge to waive intellectual property restrictions on COVID Vaccines, allowing for their global manufacture,” Biden’s statement stated.
“I endorsed this position in April; today’s news underscores the critical nature of acting promptly on this.”
Besides that, the US announced Monday that it will restrict entry to most of the non-American travelers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, formerly referred to as Swaziland, Mozambique, and Malawi citing fears over Omicron.
Biden stated that as a precautionary step and until they receive new information, his government was imposing additional restrictions on aviation travel from South Africa and seven other countries.