Thirty-seven countries and the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday appealed for common ownership of vaccines, medicines and diagnostic tools to fight the global coronavirus pandemic to achieve patent laws that they fear could be an obstacle to the sharing of critical deliveries .
While most developing countries' so-called COVID-19 technology access pool has been praised by groups like MSF, an alliance between the pharmaceutical industry has asked whether efforts to bundle intellectual property would really expand access to medicines.
Development and some small nations fear that rich countries that use resources to search for vaccines – more than 100 are under development – will find their way to the top of the queue once a candidate is successful.
"Vaccines, tests, diagnoses, treatments and other important tools for the coronavirus response must be widely available as global public goods," said Carlos Alvarado, President of Costa Rica.
The efforts initially proposed in March aim to create a single point of contact for scientific knowledge, data and intellectual property amid a pandemic that has infected more than 5.8 million people and killed more than 360,000 people.
WHO published a "call for solidarity to act" calling on other stakeholders to join the voluntary initiative.
"WHO recognizes the important role that patents play in promoting innovation, but this is a time when people need to be a priority," said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in an online press conference.
The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations has raised concerns about undermining intellectual property protection, which the group says will enable collaboration and will continue to be necessary after the pandemic ends.
"The" call for solidarity to act "promotes a uniform model that disregards the specific circumstances of every situation, every product and every country," said the association.
Anna Marriott, health policy manager at Oxfam anti-poverty group, said the patent-handling gap shows how some regions could become losers.
"The attempt by the pharmaceutical industry to reject the World Health Organization's initiative suggests that they care more about profits than people's health," she said.