Rabu, 10 Maret 2021

Australia may oppose push for cheap COVID-19 vaccine for developing countries -

The Morrison government has outraged aid groups, health organisations and unions by indicating it will oppose a plan to allow developing countries to access cheap versions of COVID-19 vaccines.

The World Trade Organisation proposal, which will be put to member nations this week, is aimed at ending the pandemic faster.

But Trade Minister Dan Tehan suggested on Wednesday that Australia would oppose the waiver for vaccine patents unless it could protect “millions of dollars that has gone into the research”.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions, Australian Council for International Development, Oxfam Australia, Public Health Association of Australia, The Salvation Army and several other groups are urging the federal government to support the waiver on patents, trade secrets, copyright and industrial design.

“The waiver proposal will cover COVID-19 medical products including medicines, vaccines, diagnostics, and other technologies such as masks and ventilators,” the joint letter read.

“(It) would allow developing countries to expand production and access to these much-needed supplies during the pandemic.”

According to the groups, more than 85 developing countries will not have widespread access to coronavirus vaccines before 2023.

“Young, healthy people in rich countries are being vaccinated before frontline workers and at-risk people in poorer countries,” the letter read.

The waiver is considered necessary to achieve a quicker rollout in developing countries because “no one is safe unless everyone is safe”.

“To overcome this pandemic, we need global co-operation and solidarity,” the letter read.

“We urge the Australian government to value human rights above intellectual property rights.”

The letter was sent to Mr Tehan, Foreign Minister Marise Payne, International Development Minister Zed Seselja and some shadow ministers.

More than 100 other countries back the proposal by India and South Africa, but Australia is one of 10 blocking it.

Mr Tehan said he was seeking a “proper resolution” to the issue.

“Obviously, we’ve got to make sure that there are some protections in place for the millions of dollars that has gone into the research to create these vaccines,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

“We’re working through this to make sure that we can get the proper outcome, and we’ve been in very constructive discussions within the World Trade Organisation on this matter.”

Asked if he expected Australia would ultimately get on-board, Mr Tehan said: “Well, if we can get a proper resolution that we’re working towards … my hope is that we can get a resolution.”

ACTU president Michele O’Neil said the “big pharma” were massively profiting while frontline workers and high-risk people in developing nations suffered due to outdated intellectual property laws.

“The Morrison government should value people’s health and wellbeing over putting more money in the hands of big pharma,” she said.

Australian Council for International Development chief executive Marc Purcell said as long as COVID-19 raged, Australia’s economic and public health recovery would be undermined due to new variants reducing the lifespan of vaccinations.

“It’s in the national interest for Australia to back universal rollout of vaccines around the world and make generic vaccines available everywhere as fast as possible,” he said.

Public Health Association of Australia chief executive Terry Slevin said wealthy developed countries had a responsibility and strong incentive to assist low to middle income countries.

Separately, almost one million people worldwide have backed a call by the People’s Vaccine Alliance for rich nations to stop “protecting big pharma monopolies and profits”.

Campaigning organisations include Oxfam, Frontline AIDS, UNAIDS, Global Justice Now and the Yunus Centre.

On Thursday, protests will be held outside pharmaceutical headquarters as part of a global day of action.

“For the rich world, this proposed act of human solidarity to ensure that medicines and vaccines get to the whole human family simultaneously is in their own self-interest, not just an act of charity,” Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus said.

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2021-03-10 07:22:43Z

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