WTO Chief opposes vaccine inequity, urges developing nations to expand production capacity

By Amirtha P S, Trainee Reporter
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The intergovernmental organization managing global trade relations, World Trade Organization’s (WTO) head has called for increased capability in developing countries to manufacture vaccines, by pointing out that the imbalance in access to coronavirus vaccines that mostly favors rich and developed nations was unacceptable.

The Director-General of WTO, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala showed her support for the creation of a framework that would offer developing countries some automaticity and access to manufacturing vaccines with technology transfer in the future.  

Ms. Okonjo-Iweala criticized the current “vaccine inequality” existing across the globe by stating “The idea that 70 percent of vaccines today have been administered only by 10 countries is really not acceptable.”

Scores of the trade body’s member nations have supported efforts led by South Africa and India to get the WTO to grant a temporary waiver of its intellectual property pact to help boost COVID-19 vaccine production at a time of insufficient supplies. However, some rich countries and those with strong pharmaceutical industries oppose the idea, saying it would limit future innovation.

Earlier the WTO chief has warned that vaccine nationalism would probably hinder the economic growth for all countries despite being rich or poor. When Ms. Okonjo-Iweala got into charge she affirmed that her top priority would be to make sure that the organization addresses the pandemic.

During the meeting, France’s finance minister Bruno Le Maire addressed the complex efforts to reform the WTO amid tensions over trade, including the US-China trade war during the Trump administration and a long-running dispute between the United States and the European Union over subsidies for aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing.

“We do not want to see a return of the commercial tensions between the United States and China, or between the United States and the European Union. We are convinced that the WTO has a major role to play,” Mr. Le Maire said. 

Related: WTO under pressure to consider TRIPS waiver for COVID-19 vaccine as global support mounts

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