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BWOB Rewind: An Update on the Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine Around the World

COVID-19 vaccine

Porto, Portugal – European Leaders met in person on Friday, May 7, 2021, for the first time this year.

While they continued to wear face masks and their enthusiasm was guarded, it was evident that the virus has been waning in the EU. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen noted in her opening remarks that “[t]he (pandemic) recovery is still in an early stage…”  EU leaders appear to be trying to “convey a sense of normalcy, of slowly returning to normal” said Antonio Barroso, a Managing Director with Teneo. A focal point of the summit is to develop a plan to repair the economic damage inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the creation of a plan or protocol to share the vaccine technology to speed the end of the pandemic.

From Barry Hatton, Associated Press

Geneva, Switzerland – The World Health Organization gave its authorization on Friday, May 7, 2021, for the emergency use of a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by China’s Sinopharm.

The WHO authorization follows a decision by its technical advisory group that opens the prospect that the Sinopharm vaccine could be included in the United Nations-backed COVAX program. That program looks to distribute the vaccine through UNICEF and the WHO’s regional office for the Americas. While globally, the concern is to find methods to distribute the vaccines to countries in desperate need, Sinopharm has released little public data other than the efficacy numbers for the two vaccines developed by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products and the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products.

From the Associated Press

Tokyo, Japan – Japan continues to show social and political stress as the coronavirus spreads in the country.

Japan extended its state of emergency in Tokyo through the end of May. How will the spread of the virus impact the Olympics, which are set to commence in less than three months? Will the Japanese be comfortable hosting the games? Surveys show that most residents of Japan oppose hosting the games during the pandemic, while the government is set on doing so. If cases don’t decline and the public becomes more concerned, how will that impact the games? Remember that the games, originally scheduled to take place last year, were postponed to 2021 in hopes that the virus would be under control – doesn’t look like that’s the case.

From the Associated Press

Rome, Italy – The United States proposed the possibility of waiving patent protections for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) stated that patent protection waiver discussions would ramp up within the WTO. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala noted arguments both for and against the waiver, but said she was “sure (that the United States’) proposal will give impetus to negotiations.” In addition, the WTO brought up ways to address other logistical issues that could hamper getting the vaccines to where they’re needed, including eliminating or reducing export restrictions and the efficacy of distribution chains. Finally, Okonjo-Iweala said she hoped that the WTO members could “come together” to develop a plan to increase the distribution of the vaccines.

From Thompson Reuters – reporting by Gavin Jones and editing by Angelo Amante

If you have any questions about this post or any related international business matters, please feel free to contact me at rcgabrielski@norris-law.com.