With the advent of Omicron, Canada must finally waive COVID-19 vaccine patents: Singh

Singh said by not yet addressing the issue that Trudeau ‘would rather protect the profits of pharmaceutical companies than help in the global fight against the pandemic’

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NDP leader Jagmeet Singh says the advent of the Omicron variant means the Liberal government must finally support international calls to waive patents on COVID-19 vaccines.

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“With what we see in the Omicron variant is that unless and until we do our part in tackling the global pandemic, which means we are helping people around the world, we will not be able to beat this pandemic. , “Singh told reporters. Parliament Hill on Tuesday.

He said that letting developing countries, which have fewer resources to buy vaccines, produce their own is one of the most important ways to tackle COVID.

The new variant was reported by South Africa last week and prompted the Liberal government to ban flights from seven African countries on Friday, a ban that was extended to three more countries on Tuesday. The government is also introducing test requirements for almost all air travelers.

For more than a year, South Africa and India have been requesting that the patents on COVID-related vaccines and medicines be waived through a so-called TRIPS exemption with the World Trade Organization.

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South African High Commissioner Sibongiseni Dlamini-Mntambo also called on the Liberal government to support the patent exemption on Tuesday. She told the Canadian press that the Omicron variant arose due to vaccine inequality, noting that less than a quarter of South Africans are fully vaccinated.

Singh said that by not yet addressing the issue, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would “rather protect the profits of pharmaceutical companies than help in the global fight against the pandemic.”

“Mr Trudeau has to take a stand,” Singh said.

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The United States is among 100 other countries that support the exemption. “I call on the nations that meet next week for the World Trade Organization’s ministerial meeting to meet the US challenge of renouncing intellectual property protection for COVID vaccines so that these vaccines can be manufactured globally,” said US President Joe Biden in a statement Friday.

While this WTO ministerial meeting was subsequently suspended due to concerns about the Omicron variant, discussions on patent issues continued in the Council on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.

The WTO said in a press release on Monday that “members unanimously expressed support for maintaining momentum in the discussions on a common intellectual property (IP) response to COVID-19.” It includes the proposal from India and South Africa requesting patent exemption.

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It said the delegations are “committed to continuing to engage in various configurations in the coming weeks to try to reap any result that is still possible.”

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said in the spring that he supports a temporary suspension of intellectual property rules, as dozens of MPs from all parties, including the Liberals, signed an open letter urging the government to support the dropout.

“Opponents of the exemption proposal argue that patent monopolies are necessary to allow companies to recoup their investment in research and development. However, given that the development of COVID-19 vaccines was primarily funded through public investment and advanced market commitments , we are convinced that this justification does not apply, the letter states.

Asked how much of a difference he thinks Canada’s voice can make on this issue, given that it’s an international decision, Singh said: “it’s part of our struggle. It’s part of what Canada can do.”

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Jason Nickerson, Médecins Sans Frontières’ humanitarian adviser to Canada, as a G7 economy, Canada “supports something like the TRIPS exemption brings significant political and economic influence.”

Nickerson, whose organization has advocated for the patent exemption, said it would remove a barrier to “more companies being able to produce more vaccine doses in different parts of the world, which should lead to greater dose availability and greater access to them.”

He noted that “all the time we and many other public health experts have said that it is imperative that the world scales out access to COVID vaccine.” He said it’s both because it’s the “morally correct thing to do” but also because, when it comes to public health, “we know that vaccinating people helps reduce infection and it should reduce the chances of that the variants emerge from an unprotected population. “

Alice Hansen, press secretary to International Trade Secretary Mary Ng, said in a statement that Canada “is participating in discussions on renouncing intellectual property rights specific to COVID-19 vaccines under the WTO TRIPS Agreement.” She did not answer a follow-up question on whether that means Canada supports the exemption.

Ng was asked about the dispensation prior to the question period on Tuesday. She replied that Canada is “at the table” and “working towards pragmatic solutions.”

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