WTO-WHO High Level Dialogue - Expanding COVID-19 Vaccine Manufacture to Promote Equitable Access
Opening Remarks by WIPO Director General
Geneva, July 21, 2021
DG Dr. Tedros of the WHO,
DG Ngozi of the WTO,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to participate in this WTO-WHO High Level Dialogue and to speak alongside DG Ngozi and DG Tedros at this important event.
At the outset, I would like to reiterate WIPO's support for the vital work you and your teams are undertaking and to pledge our ongoing assistance as we continue to confront the pandemic.
Over the last year, we have witnessed the fastest ever development and deployment of vaccines in history. This remarkable achievement is the result of human ingenuity and common purpose, built over decades of investments in health innovations supported by IP, and by the coming together of the worlds of innovation, health and trade.
But while we acknowledge this achievement, we also see that vaccine distribution remains unequal. This is not acceptable. Vaccine equity is not only a moral and epidemiological imperative but the foundation for us to build back better.
I am therefore very gratified that today’s dialogue addresses a key strategy to achieving vaccine equity – the need for vaccine manufacturing to be ramped up across the world. Vaccine production needs to happen on all continents so that the world can overcome this pandemic together, protect lives and restore livelihoods within countries, and once again allow trade, ideas and people to move across the world.
And while this may be a bit early in the day, this scaling up of global manufacture of vaccines will also be critical for addressing future pandemics, which history tells us will happen again.
The issues ahead of us are however, multifaceted and complex. Therefore, it is good to see the presence of a range of stakeholders at today’s dialogue, including high-level representatives from across industry, Int’l Organizations, financial institutions and colleagues from GAVI, CEPI and MPP. This is important as we will need to work together in partnership with everyone to identify and solve the challenges that lie ahead.
While over 200 technology transfer agreements have been struck by vaccine developers over the last year, we know that there is more to do to facilitate the manufacture and distribution of vital treatments and technologies.
This is why WIPO is very supportive of the efforts being made by our sister agencies to support the ramping up of vaccine manufacturing, and this is also why I am very pleased that DG Tedros, DG Ngozi and myself came together last month to enhance our trilateral co-operation to support these endeavors.
Since that meeting, our teams have been working hard, and have agreed to organize a series of capacity building workshops to enhance the flow of information on current pandemic-related developments and responses. The first workshop, scheduled for 27 September, will focus on tech transfer and licensing.
We have also agreed to implement a joint gateway for tripartite technical assistance to support countries in assessing, prioritizing and responding to unmet needs for COVID-19 vaccines and related technologies. Work on this continues, alongside our broader collaboration at the intersection of public health, IP and trade.
This trilateral work is critical as it will allow address us to bring our expertise and resources together and provide holistic solutions to the challenges we face.
At the same time, WIPO also announced a package of covid-19 related assistance for Member States last week. It comprises of five areas where we have expertise to offer – including Policy and Legislative Assistance as well as Innovation Support and Technology Transfer.
To give a flavor of this work, I want to highlight how our global network of Technology and Innovation Support Centers or TISCs are helping to fight the pandemic. From advising Latin American governments on Covid-related patents, to supporting the development of new treatments in Africa, to encouraging research partnerships in Asia – TISCs drive innovation forward by building knowledge and supporting tech transfer capabilities and structures.
Interestingly, over four in ten TISCs have a technology specialization in health and life sciences. This is enabling the Centers to provide practical support to countries all over the world. In one African nation, our focal point brought together ten universities and research institutes to assess inventions that could help fight the pandemic. With such support, a patent was rapidly filed for one of the most promising ideas – an automated handwashing device. The invention has since won awards for its role in protecting public health region wide.
Information and insights connected to the pandemic are also critical to overcoming it, and I welcome WTO’s efforts in this regard.
WIPO is currently in the process of preparing a patent landscape report to synthesize this analysis, identify the areas where innovation has been focused, and to chart the complex patenting environment behind many of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen
We have seen in recent days that despite the progress made in the fight against COVID-19, cases are increasing again in many parts of the world.
At this critical juncture, we must therefore redouble our efforts towards identifying practical and concrete measures to deliver vaccine equity, overcome the pandemic, and support countries as they prepare to recover and rebuild.
I once again congratulate WTO and WHO for organizing today’s timely High-Level Dialogue to allow all the various stakeholders to come together to discuss this critical topic, and I once again affirm that in WIPO, you have a partner fully committed to working together to realize these shared goals.