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New WTO Chief Calls Out Countries Stalling Vaccination Production

The World Trade Organization’s chief on Tuesday called for urgent action on boosting COVID-19 vaccine production in developing countries, saying manufacturing sites could be prepared in six to seven months or less than half the time previously thought. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was until recently chair of the board of global vaccine alliance GAVI. Okonjo-Iweala said pandemic-related export restrictions had fallen in recent months, urging countries to drop or reduce the remaining ones or set timelines for their phase-out to help minimise problems in the vaccine supply chain. WTO members are due to discuss a possible waiver for intellectual property rights for COVID-19 drugs on Wednesday that could allow producers in more countries to begin manufacturing shots. However, talks are currently deadlocked with several wealthy countries opposing the waiver, saying it would undermine the expensive research that allowed the production of COVID-19 vaccines in the first place.