CONTACT: Joelle Dountio Ofimboudem (New York), email@example.com
NEW YORK, May 6, 2021 — Treatment Action Group (TAG) applauds the U.S. government’s decision to support the India-South Africa proposed waiver of certain intellectual property rights to enable equitable access to life-saving interventions for COVID-19. Waiving the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is critical to ensuring that all countries have equal and timely access to vaccines, treatments, and other tools. Such access is needed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic that is ravaging India, Brazil, and other countries across the world and enable countries across the world to recover the path towards ending hepatitis C virus (HCV), HIV, and tuberculosis (TB).
“As long-time activists for equitable global access to essential health tools, we know negotiations on the terms of a TRIPS waiver for vaccines are just one critical piece of urgently needed and long delayed efforts to meet the needs of people in low- and middle-income countries,” Joelle Dountio Ofimboudem, TAG’s HCV community engagement officer and an intellectual property lawyer. “The devastation on the Indian subcontinent, as well as the rising toll in Latin America, could have been averted if rich nations had heeded India and South Africa’s request to the WTO when it was first introduced last fall.”
“We sincerely hope this signals a sea change in the U.S. government’s approach to intellectual property monopolies, which led to so much needless death in the early 1990s and 2000s due to the delayed introduction of generic HIV medicines in Africa, and still hampers the global HCV, HIV, and TB response,” said Annette Gaudino, TAG’s director of policy strategy. “When we fight, we win, and we have only begun to fight.”
Globally an estimated 71 million people have chronic HCV infection; 38 million people are living with HIV; and 10 million people develop tuberculosis each year. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, enormous amounts of public funding and health resources were reallocated from other health needs to COVID-19. This halted the delivery of essential health services, including harm reduction services and scale-up of HCV testing and treatment; threatened HIV prevention, diagnosis and care; and disrupted TB programs as staff were diverted to address the crisis .
While the U.S. aims to administer at least one COVID-19 shot to 70% of adults by July 4, and has secured enough vaccine doses for its entire population, plus more than half a billion surplus vaccines, a large number of low- and middle- income countries are yet to administer an initial dose to 1% of their populations.
Such inequity has led many countries to divert resources away from the response to HCV, HIV, TB, and other diseases to solely focus on COVID-19, resulting in additional unnecessary deaths. Yesterday’s decision by the U.S. government marks a significant step towards global support for a waiver at the WTO on intellectual property on vaccines. In addition to vaccines, we believe any waiver must also cover intellectual property on other health technologies such as therapeutics and diagnostics. Such a waiver would provide countries with new options to optimize existing capacity to scale up production of COVID-19 medical products. This would enable countries to both accelerate progress against the COVID-19 pandemic and focus on other public health challenges such as meeting global commitments to end the HCV, HIV and TB epidemics.
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About Treatment Action Group: Treatment Action Group (TAG) is an independent, activist, and community-based research and policy think tank committed to racial, gender, and LGBTQ+ equity; social justice; and liberation, fighting to end HIV, tuberculosis (TB), and hepatitis C virus (HCV). TAG catalyzes open collective action by affected communities, scientists, and policymakers to ensure that all people living with or impacted by HIV, TB, or HCV — especially communities of color and other marginalized communities experiencing inequities — receive life-saving prevention, diagnosis, treatment, care, and information. We are science-based activists working to expand and accelerate vital research and effective community engagement with research and policy institutions for an end to the HIV, TB, and HCV pandemics.
 WTO. Waiver From Certain Provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for the Prevention, Containment and Treatment of COVID-19. October 2, 2020. https://docs.wto.org/dol2fe/Pages/SS/directdoc.aspx?filename=q:/IP/C/W669.pdf&Open=True
 World Health Organization. Key Facts: Hepatitis C. July 27, 2020. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hepatitis-c
 World Health Organization. Global Tuberculosis Report 2020. October 14 2020. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/336069/9789240013131-eng.pdf
 Treatment Action Group. Hepatitis C and COVID-19 Global Concerns: Sustained Financing and Expanded Access to Testing and Pangenotypic Treatments Needed to Recover the Path to Elimination. 2021. https://www.treatmentactiongroup.org/publication/hepatitis-c-and-covid-19-global-concerns/
 Bose, Nandita; Mason, Jeff. Reuters. Biden Aims for 70 Percent of U.S. Adults to Get One Vaccine Dose by July 4. May 4, 2021. https://www.reuters.com/world/us/biden-set-outline-plans-make-vaccine-doses-more-accessible-2021-05-04/
 Bloomberg. COVID-19 Deals Tracker: 9.6 Billion Doses Under Contract. May 2021. https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/covid-vaccine-tracker-global-distribution/contracts-purchasing-agreements.html
 Hall, Stephen, et al. ‘None are safe until all are safe:’ COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. McKinsey & Company. April 23, 2021. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/none-are-safe-until-all-are-safe-covid-19-vaccine-rollout-in-low-and-middle-income-countries