Influential Indian economic advocacy outfit Swadesh Jagran Manch (SJM) on Thursday called on the European Union to "unconditionally support" patent waivers on vaccines as well as other medical products to help India deal with its COVID response, pointing out that there wasn't any clear-cut response from the bloc on New Delhi's "TRIPS Waiver" proposals at the WTO.
“Further, the EU attempted to limit it to the scope of the TRIPS Waiver to only vaccine patents”, stated a letter from the SJM to EU Ambassador to India Ugo Astuto.
The SJM further blasted Brussels' proposal to create a “COVID-19 Vaccine Patent Pool” as a diversionary tactic, reasoning that access to trade secrets is also important to boost production of vaccines and other medical equipment.
In its letter, the SJM said that “donating vaccines” and other medical supplies wasn't a solution to deal with the COVID pandemic and would only lead to worsening of the situation by increasing monopolies in the market.
“Such an approach has also failed so far to effectively address the problem. This kind of approach is likely to lead to continuation of monopoly by a few companies over COVID-19 medical products; and it will only accentuate the miseries of the people, as the same is likely to cause shortages and unaffordable treatment, which India and the world have gone through in recent months”, the letter noted.
The SJM has also sent the letter to the embassies of all EU member states in India. The SJM is an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of India's governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
While the Joe Biden administration this month threw its weight behind vaccine patent waivers, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that such a move could “impact the quality of shots”.
The RSS-linked group said in its letter that “international human rights obligations” dictated that EU member states desist from taking measures that infringe upon human rights in other nations.
“Attempts to block the text-based negotiations as an indirect support to COVID-19 medical products go against the concept of solidarity and even violate the right to health guaranteed under Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)”.
In recent weeks, the SJM has been at the forefront of a popular effort to get the intellectual property rights on vaccines and other medical supplies removed so that these products could be manufactured in greater numbers in developing nations like India.
Earlier this month, the outfit held a nationwide protest against American entrepreneur-turned-philanthropist Bill Gates in the wake of the Microsoft founder saying that he wasn’t in favour of sharing COVID vaccine patents with developing countries such as India.
“There’s only so many vaccine factories in the world. People are pretty serious about the safety of vaccines. So moving something that’s never been done… Moving a vaccine from, say, a Johnson and Johnson factory into a factory in India… That’s not normal”, Gates told Sky News in an interview on 25 April.
“The US and the UK will be able to make sure that the vaccines are now going to the developing countries”, Gates said.