PH backs proposal to waive patents on COVID-19 vaccines

Published August 7, 2021, 9:30 AM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. echoed the proposal of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive intellectual property (IP) protections on vaccines to allow many countries to manufacture more coronavirus shots.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. (Malacañang)

Locsin made the statement during his participation at the International Forum on COVID-19 Vaccine Cooperation on August 5.

In his speech, posted by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on its YouTube channel on Friday, August 6, Locsin said the lifting of the patents would speed up vaccine production worldwide.

“We need to start with the adoption of WTO’s proposal to waive intellectual property protections on vaccines,” he said.

“In an increasingly likely future of regular booster shots for COVID like we’ve done for the common flu, strategically dispersed local production of vaccines is a lifeline and a net cast faster, farther, and wider than any alternative strategy,” he added.

Countries like South Africa and India called for a temporary waiver of IP rights on COVID-19 vaccines as well as diagnostics, therapeutics, and medical devices, saying this would enable poorer countries to manufacture more vaccines, treatments, diagnostics, and other vital medical tools needed to battle COVID-19, and address the extreme inequity in access to vaccines.

In June, WTO members agreed to start formal talks on a plan to boost production of the vaccines and treatments through patent waivers or compulsory licensing deals.

Meanwhile, Locsin called for more international partnerships to boost the global production of vaccines and therapeutics, alongside strengthening vaccine research and development.

The country’s top diplomat shared the Philippines’ long-term strategy to ensure vaccine sufficiency was to establish a Center for Disease Control and Prevention and a Virology Institute. However, he said this would not be possible without access to vaccine data.

“For initiatives like this to take off, transparency in and sharing of research data is needed,” Locsin said.

In his sixth and final State of the Nation Address (SONA) last month, President Duterte asked Congress to swiftly pass the bills creating the Virology Institute of the Philippines and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, citing the lingering threat of COVID-19 in the country.

“We hope to pursue the creation of public entities dedicated to managing [the] emerging and re-emerging diseases. I thus fervently request Congress to enact a law creating the Center for Disease Prevention and Control and the Virology and Vaccine Institute of the Philippines,” he said.

The President expressed confidence in the Filipinos’ capability to develop the country’s own vaccine supply.

“I am sure the Filipino brain can also process or make vaccines in the future,” he said.

Also, last month, President Duterte expressed concern about a great imbalance in access to COVID-19 vaccines, saying the pandemic has become an “unforgiving race to immunity” due to the lack of bold, collaborative responses to the situation.

So far, the country has been administering six foreign COVID-19 vaccine brands, with Sinovac as the only Asian brand in its inventory.