By Jose Oscar Magpusao
PHOTO CREDITS: REUTERS
Senator Risa Hontiveros beseeched the Philippines to support the proposal of India and South Africa to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive specific provisions of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) agreement during a press release on Wednesday.
Presented back in October 2020 by the governments of India and South Africa, along with the support of 62 WTO member states, the proposal sought to waive intellectual property rights protections for technologies crucial to the prevention, containment or treatment of COVID-19, which included vaccines and technologies related to them.
Hontiveros noted the disparity of vaccination rates in rich countries and poor countries and stated that more than 85% of pandemic deaths were from developing countries.
“Vaccine inequity is a scandal that must be urgently addressed, and if allowed to persist, it will be an ugly legacy that will haunt us even in the post-pandemic age. The impacts of this inequity are clear,” Hontiveros said in her press release.
“More than 5.41 billion vaccine shots have been administered worldwide, with 81% in only ten high and upper middle-income countries. Meanwhile, the poorest countries have only received 0.4%,” she added.
She continued by stating that, as of August 10, six out of the ten countries with the highest fatality rates had less than a tenth of the populations fully vaccinated as of while the remaining four had no more than a third of their populations fully vaccinated.
Hontiveros echoed the words of the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General (DG) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus back in January, wherein he bluntly warned that “the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure - and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world's poorest countries."
“Sa akin pong pagkaunawa, the Technical Committee on WTO Matters is still in the process of consultations and discussion on the Philippines’ position on the proposal. Kaya para po sa akin, napakahalaga na tayo ay makiisa sa mahalagang panawagang ito,” she said in the press release.
“According to the latest statistics, 14% of our population has been fully vaccinated. Sa mga mayayamang bansa, above 60% na ang vaccination rate. Calling for vaccine equity is in our national interest,” she added.
She then expressed her support of epidemiological, economic and moral imperatives that would endeavor to provide life-saving vaccines for everyone and subsequently placed her bid to be a co-sponsor of the TRIPS waiver.
“New mutants will continue to emerge if the global south continues to suffer from lack of vaccines. Rich countries have to understand that new variants and dangerous mutations develop in areas and regions where infection levels of the original variants are high. And when new variants and mutations develop, they will also affect citizens of rich countries – citizens from who may be inoculated from old variants, but not from new ones,” Hontiveros said in the press release.