Switzerland open to compromise on vaccine rights at WTO

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Switzerland open to compromise on vaccine rights at WTO

GENEVA, Nov 25 Reuters -- Switzerland is open to compromise on the intellectual property rights of COVID 19 vaccines and drugs at the World Trade Organization, but remains opposed to a full waiver of those rights, a senior Swiss diplomat said on Thursday.

Switzerland is one of a handful of WTO members that oppose the waiver of IP rights protected by the TRIPS agreement in negotiations at the WTO that began in October 2020, along with the United Kingdom and the European Union.

Proponents and activists are heaping pressure on those hold out countries ahead of a ministerial conference in Geneva next week and plan to stage protests.

Switzerland's ambassador to the WTO Didier Chambovey told reporters on Thursday that they remain convinced that the TRIPS waiver will not result in one additional dose of vaccine and may jeopardize existing partnerships that have allowed us to increase production.

He said that the Swiss view was not totally rigid and that the country is in discussions with others about finding an agreement, and that he said that the country is not giving details of those discussions.

He said that we are ready to look into this and to make a step in the direction of the other side.

He said that compromises could be made by simplifying the processes for compulsory licences and improving technology transfers.

Activists say that a waiver would help address vaccine inequity, noting that fewer than 7% of people in low-income countries had received a first COVID 19 shot, and that supplies remained scarce.

Chambovey said that this was a real challenge, but he said that removing patent protection would not solve this, instead he said that difficulties with distribution, unfilled dose pledges, vaccine hoarding and poor health infrastructure in developing countries were to blame.

Switzerland believes that a more effective way to use existing flexibilities in the TRIPS agreement is to use existing flexibilities to allow governments to issue compulsory licences to manufacturers.