According to an early draft of a global pandemic agreement, governments may have to reserve drugs and vaccines for the World Health Organization to distribute in poorer countries to avoid a repeat of the “catastrophic failure” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the most specific proposals in the draft agreement reviewed by Reuters on Wednesday is a provision to reserve 20% of any tests, vaccines, or treatments developed for use in poorer countries.
The draft also appears to be carrying on a long-running debate by calling for intellectual property rights to be waived during pandemics, which advocates argue would allow for faster access to life-saving drugs and vaccines.
The pharmaceutical industry is opposed to the change.
The draft also retains previous provisions that could require pharmaceutical companies to release information about any public contracts for vaccines and treatments during such global health emergencies.
The agreement, dubbed the pandemic treaty, was drafted by WHO member states and will now go through a lengthy negotiating process before being finalized.
The draft treaty talks will begin on February 27 and will last until 2024. Member states have agreed that those who sign up will be legally bound by the treaty, but it is unclear how this will be enforced.
On Wednesday, the draft was made available to member states and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). It includes a number of measures to ensure that the global response to the next pandemic is not only stronger, but also more equitable.
“It is a once-in-a-generation chance to make a paradigm shift in the protection and improvement of the health of the world’s people,” WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib said of the accord.
The draft begins by saying it is being drawn up “in recognition of the catastrophic failure of the international community in showing solidarity and equity in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic”.
However, there will be “heat and opposition” in the upcoming negotiations, especially regarding intellectual property provisions, according to James Love, director of the NGO Knowledge Ecology International.
“The ‘accord’ should build on the private sector’s strengths for innovative R&D, quick manufacturing scaling up and distribution, which is built on a robust intellectual property system,” said Thomas Cueni, director general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations.
In addition, the draft proposes a new WHO Global Pandemic Supply Chain and Logistics Network to ensure better and more equitable distribution of countermeasures, as well as a global compensation scheme for vaccine injuries.
It also proposes the WHO Pathogen Access and Benefit-Sharing System, which urges countries to share pathogens and genomic sequences “within hours”.
Diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines developed from the data should be shared fairly, with the WHO receiving 20% of any production – 10% as a donation and the rest at affordable prices – for use in developing countries, according to the document.
The plan aims to prevent countries that share outbreak data from not having access to countermeasures developed using the data.
“The provisions on transparency and equity are impressive,” Love said, “but I think negotiators need to do more work on how to create incentives for governments and others to both invest and share technologies”.
(Adapted from News18.com)
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