‘This will not be an immediate fix,’ say billionaires after US answers calls from developing countries
“No barriers should stand in the way of equitable access to vaccines, including intellectual property, which is why we are supportive of a narrow waiver during the pandemic,” wrote the Gateses. “ This will not be an immediate fix, but it is important to prepare for future outbreaks.”
It followed an announcement from the Biden administration on Wednesday saying for the first time it was in support of a temporary waiver for patents and intellectual property rights for Covid vaccines.
If approved by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), it would — in theory — allow vaccines to be produced by developing countries currently suffering from severe outbreaks of Covid.
The remarks from Mr Gates follow recent concerns from the billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft founder of waiving intellectual rights for vaccines.
“There’s only so many vaccine factories in the world and people are very serious about the safety of vaccines,” Mr Gates told Sky News a fortnight ago — amid warnings that a waiver is not a fix-all solution for current shortages in supply.
“The thing that’s holding things back in this case is not intellectual property. There’s not, like, some idle vaccine factory with regulatory approval that makes magically safe vaccines,” said Mr Gates. “You’ve got to do the trials”.
On Friday, the Microsoft founder went on to say that the Gates Foundation would continue calling for COVAX — a World Health Organisation (WHO) initiative to supply developing countries with vaccines — “to be fully funded.”
The Gates Foundation remains one of the biggest donors of Covid research and support for developing countries, with $300m (£215m) committed to vaccine research, production and testing, so far.
Countries including South Africa and India, who in recent weeks experienced exponential increases in cases of Covid, were among the first to call on the US and others to share the intellectual property rights for Covid vaccines in October.
The Biden administration’s announcement of waivers increases the pressure on the UK and EU to also support the WTO proposals.