What is holding back the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP)

Production concerns in the manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines have underscored the need for technology transfer. This means greater relevance for the C-TAP, however it continues to lack support.

The shortages of COVID-19 vaccines have brought into focus the importance of technology transfer needed to speed up the production of vaccines to meet unmet demand. This may give a much-needed impetus to WHO’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, which was first suggested by Costa Rica in March 2020, subsequently launched in May 2020 by WHO, but an initiative that has failed to take off. So far.

A number of factors have ensured that there has been very little appetite for a voluntary mechanism that seeks to promote sharing of technology, know-how to improve access to COVID-19 medical products. Apart from the industry’s reluctance for such an approach, it appears that the initiative also lacked sufficient buy-in internally at WHO. The ACT Accelerator backed mostly by rich countries and the private sector, also seems to have edged out the C-TAP as a preferred approach to address the pandemic.

“There hasn’t been a critical mass to drive this mechanism. The C-TAP does not have enough number of interested stakeholders,” a source associated with the process told Geneva Health Files on the condition of anonymity.

In this story we try to examine what are the potential obstacles in getting C-TAP to fly. We spoke to half a dozen experts to understand what has been limiting the initiative even before it has taken off, and why this could potentially change.

Image credit: Photo by Ann H from Pexels

WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has called this lack of equitable access to vaccines as one created by “artificial scarcity”. In his piece in Foreign Policy earlier this month, Tedros said, “Governments and companies must come together to overcome this artificial scarcity. There are many steps that can be taken to ramp up vaccine production and broaden distribution. These include openly sharing vaccine manufacturing technology, intellectual property, and know-how through the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, temporarily waiving intellectual property barriers, and expanding voluntary contracting between manufacturers.”


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