In her address, WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said that while the vaccine rollout has accelerated, “vaccine inequity is, by some measures, getting worse.” She identified unequal access to vaccines as a “major reason for the global economy’s K-shaped recovery,” where advanced economies “are surging ahead, while the rest lag behind amid rising poverty, hunger and unemployment.” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that while over 3.5 billion vaccines have been distributed globally, more than 75% of those went to just ten countries. He called for increasing vaccine supply to lower-income countries by “removing the barriers to scaling up manufacturing, including through technology transfer, freeing up supply chains, and waivers.”
WIPO Director General Daren Tang welcomed the presence of a range of stakeholders at the event, stressing the need to “work together in partnership with everyone to identify and solve the challenges that lie ahead.”
While speakers generally agreed on the need to keep supply chains open and predictable, perspectives varied on the proposed waiver of some of the WTO’s intellectual property rules to ensure greater availability of vaccines and other products needed to fight the pandemic. Issues around the transfer of know-how and technology, and factors influencing participants’ decisions on licensing intellectual property were also raised. In the discussions that followed, participants outlined current and projected production volumes, and described plans for new investments in production capacity. They highlighted supply chain bottlenecks ranging from export restrictions and raw material shortages to onerous regulatory processes, and shared ideas on how these challenges might be addressed.
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