Proponents, including the World Health Organization chief, note that such waivers are part of the WTO toolbox and insist there's no better time to use them than during a once-in-a-century pandemic that has taken 3.2 million lives, infected more than 437 million people, and devastated economies across the globe.
Ambassadors from World Trade Organization countries on Wednesday plan to discuss trade rules protecting the technological know-how behind COVID-19 vaccines amid growing pressure on rich nations to relax them as a way to help developing countries fight the pandemic.
The WTOs General Council was taking up a temporary waiver for intellectual property protections that South Africa and India first proposed in October. The idea has gained support in the developing world and among some progressive lawmakers in the West.
Authors of the proposal, which has faced resistance from many countries with influential pharmaceutical industries, have been revising it in hopes of making it more palatable.