The World Trade Organization postponed a meeting where trade ministers planned to decide on vaccine access and production issues for developing countries. The meeting, scheduled for Geneva, Switzerland, was canceled because of new travel restrictions due to the COVID Omicron variant. Waiving pharmaceutical company patents on COVID vaccines and treatments featured prominently on the agenda.
“The World Trade Organization can help ensure that everyone around the world can access coronavirus vaccines and treatments,” said Eric LeCompte, the Executive Director of the religious development organization Jubilee USA Network. “In spite of the lack of an in-person ministers meeting, the WTO can still take action on waiving vaccine patents.”
The highest WTO decision-making body in between ministerial meetings is the General Council.
The IMF estimated that failure to achieve a 70% vaccination rate globally by mid-2022 will result in more than $5 trillion in global economic losses over the next five years. While vaccination rates in high-income countries approach 70% of the population, less than 5% of people in low-income countries received even one dose, according to a group of World Health Organization experts.
“Distributing vaccines is essential to stop food shortages and prevent economic shocks,” stated LeCompte.
In the summer, Jubilee USA organized leaders of the Catholic, Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian and United Church of Christ Churches and AFL-CIO to meet US Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai on the vaccine and trade proposals. Tai supports temporarily waiving COVID vaccine patents.