The World Trade Organization began a process that could make it easier for poor countries to produce or procure COVID-19 vaccines. Pharmaceutical companies hold vaccine patents and WTO action is necessary to waive the patents. Less than 2% of coronavirus vaccines reached poor countries.

“Without enough vaccines, developing countries continue to lose lives and jobs,” said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA Network. LeCompte’s group advocates for equitable medicine access in trade agreements. “We must move as fast as possible so all people can receive coronavirus vaccines, therapies and medical equipment to respond to the crisis.”

The IMF warns of a worrying trend where rich countries have too many vaccines while developing countries face deep vaccine shortages. On Tuesday, the World Bank reported that two-thirds of developing countries are expected to be in worse economic shape than they were before the pandemic.

“Unless we act quickly on global vaccine access, most of the world’s countries will see lost decades of development,” stated LeCompte. “As the crisis worsens in developing countries, wealthy countries will face more economic shocks.” 

Pressure for a vaccine access process intensified on the trade body after the Biden Administration called for a COVID waiver on vaccine patents.