The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, whose Covid-19 vaccine with German partner BioNTech was approved December 11 for emergency use in the United States, has emerged as a vocal opponent of a global effort to ensure poor countries are able to access the vaccine. In October, India and South Africa put forward a proposal that the World Trade Organization (WTO) pause enforcement of patents for Covid-19 treatments, under the organization’s intellectual property agreement, “Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights,” or TRIPS. Now supported by nearly 100 countries, the proposal would allow for the more affordable production of generic treatments during the duration of the pandemic. As wealthy countries hoard vaccine stocks, and one study warns a quarter of the world’s population won’t get the vaccine until 2022, the proposal — if approved — could potentially save countless lives in the Global South.
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