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Draft pandemic treaty could force Big Pharma to share vaccines with developing countries

Major battles lie ahead as negotiations on a new treaty to set rules for production and distribution of life-saving drugs

Negotiations on protocols for a global and national level pandemic response have started with the World Health Organization's (WHO) Intergovernmental Negotiating Body's (INB) publication of a 'zero-draft' of a new pandemic treaty last week.

The draft states that the WHO is 'deeply concerned by the gross inequities' of supply, production and access to Covid-19 vaccines. Its proposal to reserve at least 20% of any tests, vaccines or treatments for use in poorer countries is likely to prompt major pushback from pharmaceutical giants.

Civil society groups say the treaty should compel governments to commit to sharing medical technology and knowhow. It also states that the intellectual property rules that uphold pharmaceutical company monopolies must be waived automatically when a health emergency is declared.

This points to the need for clear enforcement of the treaty which raises another raft of diplomatic questions. The WHO insists the treaty should be legally binding.

The draft cites the backdrop to its recommendations as the 'catastrophic failure of the international community in showing solidarity and equity in response to the novel Covid-19 pandemic'. The final draft is set to be presented at the World Health Assembly in 2024.

Other proposals in the draft include strengthening and sustaining capacities of health systems, cooperation for sustainable and predictable financing, and raising pandemic and public health literacy for pandemic prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.

It also calls for the establishment of the WHO Global Pandemic Supply Chain and Logistics Network to promote production and transfer of technology and know-how.

This network would boost research and development capacities and establish a Pathogen Access Benefit-Sharing System (PABS) to ensure equitable and timely sharing of pathogens with pandemic potential and genomic sequences.



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