Intellectual Property, COVID-19 Vaccines and Equity: A Public Health and Human Rights Critique
Keywords:COVID-19 vaccines, Intellectual Property, waiver, public health, human rights law
The debates surrounding Intellectual Property (IP) have opened a front in the geopolitical struggle for COVID-19 vaccine access and distribution. Specific to vaccine manufacture, one route by which local production can be encouraged in low- to middle-income countries would be to ease IP restrictions by such mechanisms as a temporary waiver under the TRIPS [Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights] agreement. High-income states have resisted the measure, arguing that IP restrictions for COVID-19 vaccines should remain in place. Their preference is to provide vaccines to poorer states, notably through the COVAX allocation plan, or through bilateral initiatives where excess vaccines are distributed once local supply needs are met. It is argued here that retaining such IP restrictions constitutes an international public health risk and a potential breach of human rights in the context of international law.
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