China says backs talks on IP waiver for Covid vaccines

A worker performs a quality check in the packaging facility of Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech, developing an experimental coronavirus disease vaccine, during a government-organised media tour in Beijing, China, September 24, 2020. — Reuters pic
A worker performs a quality check in the packaging facility of Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech, developing an experimental coronavirus disease vaccine, during a government-organised media tour in Beijing, China, September 24, 2020. — Reuters pic

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BEIJING, May 13 — China supports talks on waiving intellectual property protections on Covid-19 vaccines, Beijing’s commerce ministry said today, amid a global push to widen access to jabs.

The World Trade Organisation has for months faced calls to temporarily remove patent protections on coronavirus vaccines, in a bid to get the drugs to poorer countries struggling to inoculate their people.

The US has backed the proposal, but some European leaders have expressed scepticism over whether a waiver will improve accessibility.

“China supports the World Trade Organisation’s proposal on intellectual property exemptions, for anti-epidemic materials such as Covid-19 vaccines, to enter the text consultation stage,” Chinese commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng said.

Beijing believes the WTO can play an “active role” in improving vaccine availability globally, he said, though he did not elaborate on further moves by the world’s second-largest economy.

Shares in Asia-listed vaccine makers tumbled last week after the US backed the plan for a waiver on Covid-19 patent protections — including those of Chinese companies like Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical and CanSino Biologics.

Fosun has rights to develop and market BioNTech’s shot in China, while CanSino manufactures one of the country’s primary domestic vaccines. — AFP

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