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WHO joins calls for equitable access to healthcare products ahead of future pandemics

The WHO, WIPO and WTO gathered at the Joint Technical Symposium on 16 December


The World Health Organization (WHO), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have united in calls for cooperation regarding future pandemics, highlighting the importance of fostering innovation and promoting timely equitable access to healthcare products.

The three organisations met at the Joint Technical Symposium on 16 December, which was opened by WIPO director-general Daren Tang, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

The leaders underscored the speed at which critical health situations can change, as shown by the COVID-19 pandemic. The three leaders reinforced that learning from the first three years of the pandemic is crucial in better preparing for future health crises.

Tang said: “I hope that [the] trilateral symposium will bring us closer together and strengthen our collective will to work across the agencies, alongside our partners in the Member States, industry and civil society, to deliver a better, healthier and more sustainable outcome for our world.”

"[The] symposium is about frank, inclusive and empirically grounded dialogue about how global trade and intellectual property rules contributed to what went well – and what did not – with the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This will help lay the foundation for better responses to future global health crises," said Okonjo-Iweala.

Salim Abdool Karim, director of the Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa and professor of global health at Columbia University, delivered the keynote address and reviewed developments during the pandemic from a scientific point of view, suggesting possible positive steps forward with regard to pandemic preparedness and response.

In his address, he commented that despite reaching a widespread immunity from vaccination and natural infection, which has reduced hospitalisation and severe illness, the virus continues to spread, further increasing the risk of unpredictable new variants.

The panel discussions that followed considered the central challenges faced worldwide amid the COVID-19 pandemic and included speakers from the South Centre, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Gilead Sciences, the International Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Association and Médecins Sans Frontières. There was also a discussion centred on response and recovery to the COVID-19 crisis, which in turn outlined building resilience against future pandemics.

The day’s discussions were concluded with a summary from Edward Kwakwa, assistant director-general, Global Challenges and Partnerships Sector, WIPO, who stated that ‘pandemic preparedness and response will depend on harnessing the innovative and creative capacities of all people’.

Article by
Fleur Jeffries

20th December 2022

From: Research, Healthcare



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