World Bank says no to IP waiver as WTO debate resumes

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The World Bank has announced it opposes the proposed waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines as negotiations resume at the World Trade Organization.

World Bank president David Malpass said it does not support the waiver out of concern for the negative impact on innovation.

The waiver, which is supported by the US, Australia and New Zealand, was proposed by India and South Africa. The European Union and a group of developing countries have proposed an alternative that still provides for a limited waiver.

The industry has slammed the proposed waiver as undermining ongoing investment in the development of new COVID-19 vaccines. The industry has also made the point it will not make any practical difference to the global distribution of vaccines given limited manufacturing supplies and production capacity.

The WTO's position also appears somewhat confused given its director-general, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has acknowledged patents “may not be the critical issue” when it comes to the production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

Mr Malpass said in response to a question about the waiver, "We don't support that, for the reason that it would run the risk of reducing the innovation and the R&D in that sector." He said a better way forward would be for developed countries to donate more vaccine doses to developing countries, particularly through the global COVAX facility.