With implementation troubles likely to derail India’s efforts to push for compulsory licensing of Covid-19 vaccine to ramp up production, the only way forward for the nation, feeling the vaccine crunch, is to push World Trade Organization (WTO) members to back the emergency patent waiver plan to up medical supplies.
A joint proposal with South Africa in this regard is already under consideration, India needs to onboard other important nations including Japan, Switzerland, Australia and even Brazil just to negotiate the text. Germany and other members of the European Union are yet to be fully on board.
According to some reports, the US has approached some countries and India is using diplomatic channels to reach out to other nations in this regard. “Ultimately, we need consensus and that is not going to be easy. We are expecting more countries to come forward and support us,” said a government source, adding that willingness from US and China to at least agree to the talks is helping change the mood.
The other challenge is seen to be coming from the WTO leadership, with some quarters still batting for voluntary licensing arrangements between global giants and local players, which India, South Africa, Pakistan, Indonesia and the other proponents believe are not sufficient.
There have been suggestions to invoke the compulsory licensing provisions provided under the Patents Act to get domestic manufacturers to produce vaccines, but the government recognises that it’s not an easy task. The government can invoke the provisions to waive patent rights to manufacture or import in case of an emergency.
At WTO, the EU too has been suggesting the use of compulsory licensing but the government believes that it is too cumbersome to get product and country-specific waivers. The government’s stand will provide comfort to industry, as lobby groups such as Ficci had openly opposed the suggestions.