As COVID-19 vaccines start to roll out, a UBC Okanagan (UBCO) School of Nursing assistant professor and researcher is asking the federal government to think globally and not just locally when it comes to protecting people from the virus.
Katrina Plamondon researches health equity at UBCO and has joined a collective call for Canada to support a temporary waiver to allow international production of vaccines and other health products during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Plamondon said intellectual property rights are protected by a World Trade Organization agreement, which will likely have a negative impact on the distribution of vaccines, treatment, and equipment, to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is a global call to waive certain Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) rules to ensure developing countries can also have access to COVID-19 vaccines, and so these countries can also produce vaccines, diagnostic tests and personal protective equipment (PPE) without the risk of violating trade agreements.
“News of promising vaccines sparked optimism for light at the end of a pandemic tunnel… the TRIPS waiver is important because access to vaccines everywhere is determined by accessibility and affordability,” Plamondon said.
“Some countries can afford to purchase, others to manufacture—and many cannot. The TRIPS agreement empowers developing countries’ capacity to get vaccine to people who need it.”
Plamondon said the waiver is supported by the World Health Organization’s director-general, dozens of health NGOs, public health researchers, and international leaders, but is opposed by some countries, including Canada, the US, the UK, Norway, Switzerland and Japan among others.
She said that while Canada is committed to international and fair access to the COVID-19 vaccine, more can be done.
“In the fall, the Government of Canada announced that it would contribute $243 million help purchase vaccines for low= and middle-income countries. That is an excellent start and generous contribution from Canada,” she said.
“Canada can do more to leverage its influence as a middle power and our voice matters. This pandemic will not disappear if countries vaccinate their own population, leaving millions of people around the world isolated and without a vaccine.”