UK urged to waive patents to help improve vaccine equality

Boris Johnson has been urged to temporarily suspend patent rights covering Covid-19 related technology.

UK urged to waive patents to help improve vaccine equality iStock
A UK Government spokesperson said that the UK has been a world leader in ensuring developing countries can access vaccines.

The UK Government has been told to “get off the sidelines” and ensure that it leads on vaccine equality.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urged by the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford to temporarily suspend patent rights covering Covid-19 related technology.

Blackford argues the move would help to ramp up vaccine access in developing countries.

It comes after figures published last month showed that only 6.2% of people in low-income countries had received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine.

Meanwhile in the UK, 81% of over-12s had received two doses.

In an appeal to Johnson, Blackford explained that giving up intellectual property rights on patented vaccines and the technology to produce them would help less-developed countries to respond to the pandemic.

“The inequality and imbalance of vaccine production and administration should be a mark of stain for richer countries,” he said.

“While richer countries vaccinate their citizens, those in poorer and developing countries are being left behind – harming our efforts to properly tackle the health crisis.

“The pandemic does not recognise borders or people – it does not discriminate when it infects. The fact is that the only way to deal with this pandemic and Covid variants is through a strengthened global approach.”

Blackford called for the UK Government to learn from mistakes made over the last year.

“As we head into the new year, the UK Government must learn the mistakes of the past year and take the morally right step and waive intellectual property rights to vaccine patents,” he said.

“Temporarily suspending patent rights covering Covid-19 related technology, particularly vaccines, will help ramp up vaccine access in developing countries and help the fight against Covid.”

The SNP Westminster leader added: “The reality is that we will not defeat this virus if we are not all on the same team.

“The UK Government must get off the sidelines and lead on vaccine equality and stop blocking the waiver to support access to vaccines around the world.”

A UK Government spokesman said the country has been “a world leader in ensuring developing countries can access vaccines, through our investment in Oxford-AstraZeneca, early support to the Covax scheme and commitment to donate surplus vaccines”.

“We are on track to meet our goal of donating 30 million doses by the end of this year, and more next year. We have donated 23 million doses already, of which 18.5 million have gone to Covax to distribute to developing countries,” the spokesman added.

“The UK is engaging constructively in the Trips waiver debate at the World Trade Organisation, and we continue to be open to all ideas that have a positive impact on vaccine production and distribution.”

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