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U.S., EU, India, South Africa reach compromise on COVID vaccine IP waiver text

The United States, European Union, India and South Africa have reached a consensus on key elements of a long-sought intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines.

According to sources familiar with the talks, this is a tentative agreement among the four World Trade Organization members that still needs formal approvals from the parties before it can be considered official. For any agreement to sail through it must be accepted by the WTO’s 164 member countries.

Some elements of the consensus deal, including whether the length of any patent waivers would be three years or five years, still need to be finalized, according to the text.

The document authorizes use of “patented subject matter required for the production and supply of COVID-19 vaccines without the consent of the right holder to the extent necessary to address the COVID-19 pandemic”.

On the same note, the tentative agreement does not include COVID-19 treatments or tests.

USTR spokesman Adam Hodge said the informal discussions among the four principal parties had not yet resulted in an agreement but had produced a promising compromise and consultations were continuing.

“The difficult and protracted process has resulted in a compromise outcome that offers the most promising path toward achieving a concrete and meaningful outcome,” Hodge said in an emailed statement.

The text, which was produced in negotiations last week, was being circulated to officials in Brussels, Washington, Johannesburg and New Delhi before being presented to other WTO members. Adoption of the IP waiver by the consensus-driven organization is far from certain.

The tentative deal comes after months of negotiations over how to accelerate COVID-19 vaccine production in developing countries, where vaccination rates have lagged far behind wealthy countries.


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