COVID-19 Vaccine, TRIPS, and Global Health Diplomacy: India's Role at the WTO Platform.Biomed Res Int. 2021; 2021:6658070.BR
In light of the devastation caused by COVID-19, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and vaccine research and development (R&D) have been occupying a prominent position in the field of global health diplomacy (GHD). Most countries, international organizations, and charitable organizations have been engaged in the R&D of COVID-19 vaccines to ensure timely affordability and accessibility to all countries. Concomitantly, the World Trade Organization (WTO) provides some provisions and enforcements regarding copyrights, patents, trademarks, geographical indications, and industrial designs. Given these safeguards, it is considered that intellectual property rights (IPRs) have become major barriers to the affordability and accessibility of vaccines/medicines/technology, particularly to the developing/least developed countries. Realizing the gravity of the pandemic impact, as well as its huge population and size, India has elevated this issue in its global health diplomacy by submitting a joint proposal with South Africa to the World Trade Organization (WTO) for a temporary waiver of IPRs to ensure timely affordability and accessibility of COVID-19 medical products to all countries. However, the issue of the temporary waive off had become a geopolitical issue. Countries that used to claim per se as strong advocates of human rights, egalitarianism, and healthy democracy have opposed this proposal. In this contrasting milieu, this paper is aimed at examining how the TRIPS has become a barrier for developing countries' development and distribution of vaccines/technology; secondly, how India strategizes its role in the WTO in pursuant of its global health diplomacy? We conclude that the IPRs regime should not become a barrier to the accessibility/affordability of essential drugs and vaccines. To ensure access, India needs to get more engaged in GHD with all the involved global stakeholders to get strong support for their joint proposal. The developed countries that rejected/resisted the proposal can rethink their full support.