UP Diliman task force supports call to suspend COVID-19 vaccine patents

Published May 10, 2021, 2:33 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

The University of the Philippines Diliman’s (UP Diliman) task force monitoring the community’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) situation expressed on Monday, May 10, its support to proposals to suspend patent rights and intellectual property rule to allow the Philippines and other developing countries to mass-produce vaccines.


In a statement, the UP Diliman COVID-19 Task Force and other members of the UP Diliman community particularly threw their support behind the proposals of India, South Africa, and other developing-country governments to temporarily waive the relevant provisions under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement under the World Trade Organization.

“We urgently need rapid nationwide immunization and immediate provision of life-saving treatment to as many people as possible. Key to making this happen are an adequate and affordable supply of vaccines, drugs, test kits, ventilators, masks, and other products needed for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19; and, no less important, the strong political will needed for government to push for vaccine sufficiency and equity, and a speedy and efficient vaccine rollout,” it said.

The task force noted the global vaccine inequality and inefficiencies in the national vaccine rollout.

Citing the World Health Organization’s report, it said that over 80 percent of the 1.16 billion doses that have been administered benefited rich and middle-income countries while only 0.3 percent have trickled to developing countries like the Philippines.

“With their existing resources and expertise, many drug companies in the Philippines and other developing countries can potentially cover the shortfall that giant drug companies are unable to provide,” UP Diliman’s COVID-19 Task Force said.

It pointed out that drug companies can produce millions of doses of additional vaccines and help make it possible to inoculate 60 percent of the world this year and all those who want a vaccine by the end of 2022.

“But they are being prevented or hampered from doing so by the intellectual property provisions in the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on TRIPS,” the task force said.

“As a result, a humanitarian disaster is unfolding before our very eyes. In the Philippines and other countries like India, only a tiny fraction of the population have been inoculated, leading to untold deaths and suffering that could have largely been prevented,” it added.

At the rate vaccines are being produced, UP Diliman’s task force said the majority of the population of developing countries such as the Philippines will not be inoculated until, at the latest, the end of 2024, which “by then, inoculation against COVID-19 would have been rendered outdated and moot, the economic collapse would have starved and sentenced thousands, and the death tolls would have rung too many times than should be conscionable to anyone who has any ability at all to intervene and prevent this from happening.”

“Today, confronted with an unprecedented global health and economic emergency, we encourage our fellow academics—including those in other universities—to join us in urging the Philippine government to adopt this clarion call to the international community,” it said.