Germany and other countries are slowing down the global fight against coronavirus by blocking patent waivers for vaccines, according to the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
“Intellectual property rights are a constraint to accelerated distribution and production of vaccines,” UNDP Chief Achim Steiner told dpa.
While there are always concerns with pushes like this, “the fact that there is a risk is no reason not to act right now,” the diplomat said.
Patent clearance must be considered as one of several measures to address glaring inequality in the distribution of vaccines, according to Steiner.
US President Joe Biden recently floated the idea of patent waivers.
Germany and Britain recently joined forces at the G7 summit in Cornwall to reiterate their opposition to lifting patent protections to allow licence-free production of vaccines in developing countries.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in May it was not a solution for making vaccines available to more people. She said creativity and innovation was needed from companies, and that patent protections were a prerequisite for that.
Germany and Britain are home to BioNTech and AstraZeneca, two successful manufacturers of coronavirus vaccines.
Steiner said the international community failed last year to provide enough funding for the Covax vaccine-sharing programme and that the poorest countries are now dependent on the nations that produce vaccines and own the patents for them.
“That is not a good place to be in as a global family, and as a community of nations,” he said.
The promise made by the G7 nations to provide at least one billion doses by mid-2022 is probably “too little and too long down the line” from the perspective of those in need, but it also feels wrong to condemn governments for prioritizing their own populations, he said.