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PM tip-toes around prospect of waiving COVID-19 vaccine patents

U.S. already backing effort to waive patents, boost global supply.
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remained reluctant Friday to take a position on whether Canada should push global partners to waive patents over COVID-19 vaccines in a bid to boost global supplies.

The U.S. backed such a move on Wednesday, putting further pressure on countries like Canada to back such a measure that would have major impacts on intellectual property rights.

The prime minster said repeatedly during a Friday briefing that Canada is trying to reach a consensus with its global partners.

But he added that the change in the U.S. position could help find a solution to the issue that would undoubtedly get major pushback from pharmaceutical manufacturers who’ve developed the vaccines against COVID-19.

Waiving the intellectual property rights of the vaccines would allow global manufacturers to produce generic versions of the vaccine at mass scale and help poorer countries vaccinate their populations sooner.

“Making sure that we are providing access to vaccine to countries around the world is not just in their interest but in our own interest as well. That’s why we are participating in these discussions and why we hope to get to a solution,” Trudeau said.

International Trade Minister Mary Ng said the country remains at the table to negotiate.

“We’re trying to remove all barrier to access to vaccines, whether it is accelerating productions or the equitable distribution,” she said during the same briefing as Trudeau. 

The prime minister also revealed the federal government is earmarking $375 million to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, a global initiative launched by the World Health Organization.

The program works with partners to speed up the deployment of tests, treatments and vaccines for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Canada this week sent a cargo plane containing antiviral medications and ventilators to India as the world’s second most-populated nation deals with a brutal surge in COVID-19 cases.

The prime minister said these were surplus supplies and that their departure would not affect Canada’s own response to the pandemic. 

torton@biv.com

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