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Omicron Relaunches Calls to Forgo Intellectual Property of COVID-19 Vaccine


OTTAWA – In light of the emergence of the worrisome new Omicron variant, calls are growing for Canada to support a global initiative to temporarily lift intellectual property restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines.

Opposition politicians and medical groups urge liberals to finally lend their support to a 2020 joint India-South Africa-led proposal to suspend the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on aspects of trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) during the pandemic.

The move would give low-income countries access to vital information such as trade secrets, designs and copyrights to produce COVID-19 treatments nationally, and at a lower cost.

In South Africa, where Omicron is spreading rapidly, less than 25 percent of adults have been fully vaccinated against the virus, compared to nearly 76 percent in Canada.

Experts say this is due to a combination of unfairness and reluctance to vaccinate.

The government continued to state that it was not against the TRIPS waiver, but was consulting countries and stakeholders on the right way forward.

Ottawa also often highlights their contributions to the global COVAX vaccine sharing network, from which they have donated more than 8.3 million surplus vaccines of the 200 million pledged by the end of 2022.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters on Tuesday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must “take a stand” and either support the global battle to fight the virus or protect the profits of pharmaceutical companies.

“It is not enough for us to support Canadians and do our part here in Canada, we also need to help countries around the world and especially those who have less money to buy vaccines… We need to make sure people pass first of all. he said.

The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) co-signed a letter to the United Nations, along with other international nurses unions, to lobby for political action on immunization inequity.

Pauline Worsfold, secretary-treasurer of the UNFC and nurse on the front line of the pandemic in Alberta, has said that Canada’s refusal to sign the proposed TRIPS waiver is a “sin”.

“It is inequitable for countries that cannot afford to immunize, to pay a high price to immunize their populations… no one is safe until everyone is safe and I think this new variant is an integral part of the evidence, ”she told CTVNews. .ca during an interview.

When asked if she accepts the argument that patent monopolies encourage innovation and help companies recoup their research and development investments, Worsfold replied “not for a second”.

A spokeswoman for International Trade Minister Mary Ng previously told CTVNews.ca that the TRIPS waiver would be a priority topic discussed at the World Trade Organization ministerial conference scheduled to take place on November 30. to December 3.

The conference has since been postponed due to the threat of the Omicron variant.

In a statement to CTVNews.ca released Tuesday, the spokesperson said, “Our government has always been and always will be a strong advocate for equity in vaccines. “

“We are participating in discussions to waive intellectual property protections specific to COVID-19 vaccines under the WTO TRIPS Agreement. Canada will continue to work with its international partners in the WTO to achieve a swift and fair recovery in the world, ”said Alice Hansen.

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