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Former world leaders urge US President to waive patents on Covid vaccines

President Joe Biden visits a vaccination site at Virginia Theological Seminary, Tuesday, April 6, 2021, in Alexandria, Va. Pic by Evan Vucci

By John Besley, PA

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown is among a group of former world leaders and Nobel laureates calling on US President Joe Biden to waive intellectual property rules for Covid vaccines to accelerate global access to the jabs.

Mr Brown is one of 175 former government heads and leading thinkers to co-sign an open letter to Mr Biden which says they are “gravely concerned” by the slow progress in making Covid vaccines readily available to people in low and middle income countries.

The letter, which also includes former French president Francois Hollande and Nobel laureate Professor Joseph Stiglitz among its signatories, urges the president to support a proposal from the South African and Indian governments at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to temporarily waive intellectual property rights related to Covid-19 vaccines and treatments.

This would allow for an urgently needed “scale up” in the manufacturing and supply of vaccines around the world.

The letter says a small number of countries, including the US, UK and EU, are currently blocking the move.

It states: “A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly.

“These actions would expand global manufacturing capacity, unhindered by industry monopolies that are driving the dire supply shortages blocking vaccine access.

“Nine in 10 people in most poor countries may well go without a vaccine this year. At this pace, many nations will be left waiting until at least 2024 to achieve mass Covid-19 immunisation, despite what the limited, while welcome, Covax initiative is able to offer.”

Mr Brown said the waiver should be accompanied by a “global multi-year burden sharing plan to finance vaccines for the poorest countries”.

He added: “President Biden has said that no-one is safe until everyone is safe, and now with the G7 ahead there is an unparalleled opportunity to provide the leadership that only the US can provide and that hastens an end to the pandemic for the world.

“This would be in the strategic interests of the US, and of every country on the planet.”

Downing Street has been approached for comment.

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