OTTAWA – In light of the emergence of the new Omicron variant of interest, Canada is once again calling for support for a global initiative to temporarily waive intellectual property restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines .
Opposition politicians and health groups are urging the Liberal Party to finally back their joint proposal in 2020 led by India and South Africa to suspend the World Trade Organization Agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS) during the pandemic.
The move will allow low-income countries access to vital information such as trade secrets, designs and copyrights for cheaper and domestic production of COVID-19 treatments.
In South Africa, where Omicron is spreading rapidly, less than 25% of adults have been fully vaccinated against the virus, compared with almost 76% in Canada.
Experts attribute this to a combination of vaccine inequity and procrastination.
The government has continued to state that it is not opposed to the TRIPS waiver, but is consulting with countries and stakeholders on the right path forward.
Ottawa also often points to its contributions to the global vaccine-sharing network COVAX, of which it has funded more than 8.3 million excess vaccines out of a promised 200 million by the end of 2022.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters on Tuesday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needed to “take a stand” and support the global fight to fight the virus or protect the profits of pharmaceutical companies.
“It’s not enough for us to support Canadians and fulfill our role in Canada, we also have to help countries around the world and especially those countries that have fewer means to buy vaccines… . We need to make sure that everyone comes first.” he say.
The Canadian Federation of Nurses’ Unions (CFNU) has co-signed a letter to the United Nations, along with other international nurse associations, to promote political action on vaccine inequality.
Pauline Worsfold, CFNU’s secretary-treasurer and a nurse on the front lines of the pandemic in Alberta, said Canada’s failure to agree to sign the TRIPS waiver proposal was a “sin”.
“It’s unequal to those countries that are unable to immunize, pay a high price to vaccinate their populations…no one is safe until everyone is safe and I think this new variation is part of the evidence,” she told CTVNews.ca in an interview.
When asked if she would buy into the argument that patent exclusivity drives innovation and helps companies recoup their investments in research and development, Worsfold said “it’s not wrong for a second.” “.
A spokeswoman for International Trade Secretary Mary Ng previously told CTVNews.ca that the TRIPS waiver will be a priority topic to be discussed at the expected World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference. takes place from November 30 to December 3.
The conference has since been postponed due to the threat of the Omicron variant.
In a statement to CTVNews.ca issued Tuesday, a spokesperson said, “Our government has always been, and will always be, a strong advocate for vaccine equity.”
“We are engaged in discussions to waive special intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines under the WTO Agreement on TRIPS. Canada will continue to work with its international partners in the WTO to achieve a speedy and equitable recovery around the world,” said Alice Hansen.