By- Adv. Ankit Thakur, LLM in Intellectual Property Rights, Queen Mary University of London, UK. He is currently serving as a spokesperson of the Himachal Pradesh Youth Congress
Developing as well as developed countries must sought out their ways of getting their hands on the Covid-19 vaccines as it bound to have a direct effect on the health crisis faced by many countries. The piece highlights the relation between Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and the global access to the Covid-19 vaccine around the world. It further highlights points concerning the strength Intellectual Property Rights can provide to every country which is fighting this pandemic.
Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and its direct effect on life saving medicines is a debate that has been going on for decades. Now, we have seen COVID-19 survive for more than a year and still only a small number of vaccines have been given the green light for emergency sanction. It is becoming increasingly likely that the world may soon look quite disproportionate in one distinct way as hundreds of millions of residents in wealthy nations will be vaccinated before billions of people in developing countries get similar access. India and South Africa are leading the fight to get Covid-19 vaccines clear of the IPR protection and it is also being advocated that their contention would help mobilize additional manufactures and help address vaccine disparities around the globe. Meanwhile, some also argue that this approach can lead to discouragement of additional manufacturing investments as well as undermine long-run vaccine development programs, including to initiatives to address the emerging new COVID-19 variants. On the other hand, the current demand is to scale up the existing vaccine production as quickly as possible while maintaining strict safety and quality standards. For this argument to be true, there will be a need of additional manufacturers who could and would stand by Intellectual Property restrictions. I see no such evidence in this scenario, to the contrary, and taking such a stance towards Intellectual Property may slow down or compromise the production of life saving vaccines.
Pharma companies that have developed and produced various vaccines under enormous commercial and geopolitical pressure need to scale up production as quickly as possible to meet enormous immediate demands around the world. As per my understanding, these companies are already cooperating widely with competitors and generic manufacturers, including via voluntary licenses, contracted productions, and proactive technology transfer. Weakening the commercial incentive of the originator companies may reduce their interest in going forward with the intentional collaborations that are already responsible for total output of the vaccine.
Under the existing TRIPS agreement, signatory countries can already issue compulsory licenses to produce vaccines without taking permissions from the patent holder but not a single country has opted for this option. Voluntary licensing and technology transfer from companies who are the originators can help increase long term manufacturing capacity, especially if paired with public investment. Such companies are also involved in administering quality control standards which is particularly significant in the background of extensive vaccine use. Their cooperation is important for both speedy production of the vaccine as well as maintaining its quality.
Now, coming to the global access challenge the world is facing right now, can summed up into three main points. First, while high income countries and their governments are heavily funding R&D and manufacturing. But in their effort to get more vaccines advance purchase agreements have anticipated the supplies. Second, lack of increasing manufacturing capacity undermines national and international immunization programs. In a developing country like India, vaccine is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) which is already manufacturing the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. However, the point to be noted here is upfront at- risk investment which requires to fulfil expectation of orders. The third reason is lack of capital in hand to pay for vaccines for countries whose income is low or just above low middle. Manufacturers costs must be met, COVAXIN, developed by Bharat Biotech, is struggling to meet its donation target to high income countries and other donors to enable it to contract for needed vaccines. None of manufacturers today are remotely capable of meeting the demands on a timely basis.
To increase the manufacturing capacity certain issues like risk-tolerant capital and a partnership platform to enable technology transfer to new manufacturing sites around the world need to be addressed. Such a platform can only succeed if both parties in technology transfer equation, the recipient and the originator companies have trust and confidence in the platform. It can be agreed that knowledge-sharing and technology transfer are the crux of the IPR, and patents and legal structures follow. Moderna, for example, has waived Intellectual Property enforcements for COVID-19 vaccines but has not widely shared its know-how, without the latter, the former action has not generated any generic production.
Such a situation gives rise to two broad areas of uncertainty. One, can Intellectual Property waiver be recognised as a symbolic gesture, even if it will have limited impact without broader knowledge sharing? Some will say yes, as it provides legal clarity to protect generic manufactures and signals shared commitment to human life and health over company profits and interests of wealthy countries. But I feel sceptic about it. I agree with the symbolic value, and I am not opposing it, but how will it affect the vaccine access is still to be answered. Two, if originator companies freely share all the know how would generic companies start manufacturing? I think we all would agree that there are generic manufactures with the capacity to produce at least some of the vaccines for e.g., Oxford- AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax in the medium term, but in the absence of public subsidy and government’s direct help, commercial risk sustains as we cannot assess the total demand and performance of these vaccines against emerging variants.
Considering these risks, I still believe that the companies would invest up front to manufacture vaccines. Given that there is already competition between originators, my instinct is that we should continue to actively engage originators in scaling-up. Creating the right incentives for voluntary licensing and technology transfer because with COVID-19 ‘No one is safe until everyone is safe’.
In conclusion, to speed up vaccination rates around the world, especially in low and middle income level countries, we need more global manufacturing capacity for all COVID-19 vaccine platforms, but COVID- 19 vaccines from IPR will not lead to scaling up the production of the vaccine and as a result will not improve parity or access. Policy makers should undertake measures to eliminate or limit monopolies on the production of the COVID-19 vaccine, using a combination of incentives, mandates, and subsidies. Companies that have patents or biologic resources can be remunerated, through royalties or other reward schemes. There are many inefficiencies in the current market structure and many parts of this market are broken and are highly unfair in terms of global access, but the current inefficient structure can still get some things right if all like-minded communities get together on the issue of global access with the right tools, such as technology transfer facilitation, voluntary licensing and overlapping pricing. As the longer the pandemic exists, the greater the harm in terms of our health, economic and social welfare.
Image: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Himachal Watcher or its members.
How sluggishness, poor governance aggravated water crisis of Shimla city
Shimla: The ongoing water crisis has not only highlighted the change in weather pattern due to environmental degradation but also exposed a lack of complete seriousness in government towards the welfare of the public in reality.
It applies not only to the current government but also to the previous governments of both Bhartiya Janata Party and Congress.
The Kol Dam water-supply project, which was a long-term solution, is confined to files and DPRs for at least five years. In 2014, the Union Government had rejected the DPR sent by the State Government citing several discrepancies. The SMC couldn’t even fulfil conditions of the World-Bank for the funding of the project until recently. This project has a capacity to supply non-stop water to the town and its surrounding areas upto 2050.
The governments never prepared a contingency plan to deal with situations Shimla is facing currently.
BJP’s Chain of Command Collapsed
Now, all major parties are playing politics over the crisis. It is a bad news for Himachal that even such urgency of matters could not unify the politicians. Rather, BJP’s own chain of command appears to be collapsing.
BJP’s own Councilors are questioning how the party or the government could allow the Mayor Kusum Sadret – the elected leader of the Ward Councilors and the citizens – to go on a tour with her private secretary at such a crucial time.
After a rucksack over Mayor’s China tour, the Deputy Mayor and BJP’s Ward Councilor had to slip away from the meeting the SMC had called today. When the party with the majority is walking out, it is not a healthy sign for the democratic mechanism.
It is not hard to realize that her presence could have hardly made any difference, but, as a leader, her team expected her to stand with them at least for the sake of their moral.
The Deputy Mayor of Shimla, Rakesh Sharma, who was left alone by the Mayor to face the wrath of the Ward Councilors and the people in times of, perhaps, most severe water crisis Shimla ever faced, had called an emergency meeting of the Councilors on Monday. However, several councilors didn’t even show up.
Bhartiya Janata Party’s own Councilors approached the Chief Minister with a complaint regarding the Mayor’s official China tour when the city required all human sources from top to bottom.
VIP Culture Dominated Even in Times of Crisis
After widespread complaints of regular supply to VIPs and their near and dear, the High Court of Himachal Pradesh had on Tuesday taken cognizance of the patronage being given by the government to VIP culture.
It’s perhaps the ugliest part of the ongoing crisis. Wealthy and influential are weighing heavy on commoners even in such hard times.
The Chief Minister held two consecutive meeting on Monday. Shimla was divided into three zones and water supply once in three days was assured from May 29. Some regions on Wednesday received a partial supply of water.
However, the residents complained that they did not receive supply despite issuance of the time-table issued by the SMC. They also complained that the numbers provided by the SMC were either switched-off or were not responding.
To make the situation more grave, the government used police to repress the protests, which could have led to a full-on war anytime. On Tuesday, police officials were seen thrashing protestors, who had gathered at the SMC’s Office.
The bulk re-shuffling of the staff and transfers of some officials from the Shimla Municipal Corporation have backfired at the government.
The government had to reportedly call back at least two of its officials, who were transferred by the Jai Ram Thakur-led Government. The new choice of the new government failed to respond to the situation entirely.
A Disparity in Water-Supply Statistics
A disparity prevails over the total amount of water being supplied to town as the government’s figures did not match with those of the SMC.
While the Chief Minister claimed the water consumers of Shimla town were getting 28.93 MLD water per day as compared to 32.39 MLD in 2016 and 35.64 MLD per day in the Month of May 2017, the SMC claims the supply is has dipped upto 20 to 21 MLD per day.
However, on Wednesday, the Government claimed that about 21 MLD was distributed to the people of the town.
The former-Mayor of Shimla, Sanjay Chauhan, in a media statement, said that during his tenure, they were receiving less than 20 MLD water after the Ashwani Khad water-scheme was closed due to jaundice outbreak in 2015. He said, despite it, they had provided the city with a water supply on every third day.
There seems to be no coordination between the officials of the Shimla MC as well as with other departments.
Allegations of working in nexus with water mafia to create artificial scarcity have also surfaced on a national media channel.
Impacts of Water Crisis
The water scarcity has brought several set-backs for Shimla city during the peak tourist season. The restaurants have closed their toilets for customers. The hotels are paying anything between Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 8,000 for a tanker of water. The hoteliers are charging their guests for additional water. The hotels had to cancell their reservations.
Tourists are disappointed as they are paying Rs. 100 to Rs. 200 per bucket at hotels.
Without water, the people had to start using disposables. The sale of disposables has also gone so high that shopkeepers are selling one disposable cup for as much as Rs. 5 to Rs. 10.
The public is circulating messages of social media urging tourists not to visit Shimla and consume the share of their water amid scarcity. It is ironical because Shimla had been one of the most popular international tourist destination.
Dhabas and small restaurants are buying impure water from private tankers, which poses several health risks as this water is used in meals and washing of utensils.
The crisis has derailed the town completely.
Reforms on Social Level
Rain and snow deficient winter season, in fact, led to drying up of water sources on which the Shimla city had been depending since 1875 – the year town received its first water-scheme. This is the cause of the chaos created by severe drinking water paucity in the city, says the Government, Irrigation Public Health Department, and the Municipal Corporation in defence.
The rain and snow deficiency is the result of a change in weather pattern due to the o felling of thousands of trees in a short period of time for developmental works and to free encroachment of forest lands. Rohtang-Pass has aptly shown adverse effects of rising air pollution due to excess vehicular activity.
The Transport Department, Pollution Control Board, Municipal Corporations and Councils are still stuck at burning daily solid waste – one of the major causes of air pollution.
There is no sign of promotion of rainwater harvesting or water-recycling at large hotels and other public and private establishments. It is during the crisis when, on the macro level, the state government has proposed a Rs. 4751 crore project for funding to the union government for rain water harvesting in the state.
The natural water sources were ignored by modern Shimla, and now the public is rushing back towards them. However, these sources are also giving up as no one ever bothered to revive them.
The Government does take plantation drives, but there is no follow up regarding the survival rate of saplings. In addition, the suitability of plantation is ignored while plantation drives.
The masses needed awareness, which was not on the priority list of the government.
The public is also not interested in rectifying their attitude towards environmental protection and water conservation. It’s astonishing that storage tankers continue to overflow and supply line can still be seen leaking. Again, it is a fact that government needed to work scientifically to de-condition the poor psycho-social condition of the public.
However, here we find that even our top leaders need de-conditioned first.
Bahra University and Siemens to run engineering course jointly
SHIMLA- Solan based privately owned Bahra University has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with industrial giant Siemens Industry Software India Private Limited (SISW). The tie up will enable University to set up Siemens Certified Professional Learning Center at its campus.
Suman Bose, Managing Director & CEO for Siemens and Dr. SK Bansal, Vice-Chancellor Bahra University signed the MoU at University campus.
Elaborating on the benefits of the MoU Dr. Bansal said the University will start a new batch of 4-year integrated B.Tech, Mechanical with specialization in Design and Development program at their campus.
Dr. Bansal said the above course will be driven to produce industry ready engineers around broad specializations in industry 4.0 and Smart Factory, design and development, manufacturing and computer aided analysis. He said
Students successfully completing the course per stipulated guidelines will be awarded B.Tech Mechanical degree through the University and Certificate of Merit for the opted specialization in Design and Development through Siemens Industry Software India Private Limited,
Suman Bose assured to provide assistance to arrange for internship for students of University and also promised to assist in arranging industry projects for the students and endeavor to conduct conference and seminars in the University.
Himachal’s award winning filmmaker Ajay Saklani shares his journey with Himachal Watcher
SHIMLA- It is often said, every great dream begins with a dreamer. One must always remember that one has within self the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
Keeping in mind the same talented Ajay Saklani hailing from a remote village Sihan, district Mandi of Himachal Pradesh, made the state proud not at national but even at international level by bagging two international awards during screening of his film Saanjh – a Himachali feature film at THE BORREGO SPRINGS FILM FESTIVAL (held in California, USA) where it was chosen as the Best Feature Film among 750 other entries from around the globe was and “Award of merit” at Accolade Global Film Competition.
Ajay hails from a very humble background and showed people that one should be the flame and not the moth as having passed out from a government school his dream to achieve recognition not just for self but even for state and country.
Sharing his journey to fame he with Himachal Watcher’s Community Member, Ritanjali Hastir, Ajay said,
My father was in army and he dreamt about me too following his footsteps. However, I was more inclined towards filmmaking that led me to taste the magic of theatre world.
As they say follow your passion, be prepared to work hard and sacrifice, and, above all, don’t let anyone limit your dreams so without any knowledge and guidance on filmmaking, Ajay shifted to Delhi in 2005.
There he joined RGB 4:3 Productions and learned the basics of filmmaking from Surender Sagar. He started his career as an editor and worked with some more production houses and few TV channels like Shakti TV, MH One Music, PTC Punjabi, Day & Night News to name.
His first documentary ‘Dyalee – a fading glory’ in 2006 in my village which helped him learn filmmaking basics. His second documentary ‘Upaasmar – The Taste of Hunger’ in 2011 was shot in the tribal areas of Maharashtra raising the issue of Malnutrition deaths in India and finally in 2014 after coming back to Himachal his own production company Silent Hills Studio in Hamirpur came into existence.
“With ‘Saanjh’ production I wanted to make a technical sound film that can compete with other films in the cinema halls. I hope that my work can inspire other filmmakers too and together we can promote Himachali cinema by providing with the quality work in future,” he shared.
“I feel that it was a film that fell in Art as well as Entertainment genre that made it touch hearts at the international level. As normally if we talk about Himachali Cinema, there is no such Cinema as of today in Himachal. Only a few films were produced till now and because of poor technical and creative work, those films could not make it to cinema halls or any film festivals around the country or world”, he expresses.
“Many people outside the state felt embarrassed considering the sad quality of music videos which fail to ravish visual or hearing senses; as they are also judged with the same rod. Recently some singers have given a ray of hope as they came forward with different music and quality videos. Many other singers from the state but they are all focused on Hindi and Punjabi music”, Ajay added as he contemplated on the situations one has to face considering the previous track records.
He further feels, “Cinema on the other hand is still untouched. As in 2011 Sanjeev Rattan’s ‘Dil Ch Vaseya Koi’ even won the National Award but due to the technical issues, the film failed to make it to cinema halls.Some filmmakers are coming up with great ideas for short films but again they are also focused on Hindi language. I believe until all these people don’t start making Pahari(Himachali)language films, there is no support for any kind of cinematic development in Himachal. Recently Siddarth Chauhan made a mark with his latest work and I feel happy that his next project is in Himachali language. It seems like a beginning of a new era for Himachali Cinema that has been neglected from a long time.”
“There is a great potential in Himachal and I receive a lots of calls everyday where people want to enter into acting or filmmaking and looking for guidance. But to their eagerness alone won’t do wonders we do need government support as well like in other states. The only exciting announcement is the financial support upto 10 lakh for filmmakers but only for short films and documentaries which again needs running from pillar to post and I can say is a herculean task. Exempting new cinema halls from tax for first three years is not taking filmmakers anywhere but support for film production in the state is better option which will also help in generating more and more tourism revenue.”
“Talking about my experience while making ‘Saanjh’ was a very difficult journey. Finding a producer or financier for a film in Himachali dialect was most difficult part. On the other hand our Himachal government doesn’t provide any kind of support for filmmaking in the state but expect a lot for the youth. Making people believe in me our project wasn’t easy,” shared Ajay as he keeps his view on talent promotion.
“As per his message he says My upbringing gave me deep insight into our culture and after coming back I realized a drastic change people in my village were trying to talk to in Hindi and the kids were being taught the Hindi and English words and were given punishment for talking in their own language. All our festivals were in disappearing stage and people had surrendered their traditions in the name of development. Actors feel ashamed to work in a Himachali film so very few actors turned out for auditions and they are happy to become part of crowd when a director from Mumbai.”
“I feel that as we don’t have a recognized language and we don’t have our own script to preserve the sounds of our language so there seems no way for the development of literature in our state. But yes, Cinema and Music can help in development of language & culture and it can take forward our traditional heritage. So this is very much important for us to have our own cinema and quality music. In all these years I learned the cinema, music and literature play a significant role in the development of language and culture and so we need to come forward and give Himachal its due respect,” he concludes.
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