Malaysia must support the WTO waiver on intellectual property rights for COVID-19 – If Not Now When?

(Note: This letter has been sent today to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin bin Hj Mohd Yassin and the ministers of MITI, MOSTI, Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs and MOH.)

The undersigned organisations and patient advocacy groups strongly call on the Malaysian Government to immediately support the temporary suspension of intellectual property rights enforcement as an urgent COVID-19 response.

A waiver of the World Trade Organization’s agreement on intellectual property rights (the TRIPS Agreement) would free up technologies and allow more manufacturers, including in developing countries, to urgently and quickly ramp up production of vaccines, medicines to treat COVID-19, diagnostics, ventilators and other needed medical products.

We welcome the 5 May announcement by the Biden Administration that the US will stop blocking the waiver proposal first submitted by South Africa and India to the WTO in October 2020 and now supported by more than 100 developing countries. A global campaign that saw the tsunami of calls from ordinary citizens to Nobel Laureates, former Heads of State and even Pope Francis has been urging the US, European Union, Japan, Canada and other wealthy countries to not block the waiver.

From October 2020 till last month, WTO discussions have gone nowhere because the blocking countries and the pharmaceutical industry behind them have put profits and self-interest above lives of the rest of the world. The result is vaccine production that is a monopoly of a few companies holding patents and trade secrets over technology know-how, and vaccine hoarding by wealthy nations, ending up with more than they need while many poor countries can barely vaccinate their health frontliners. This has triggered outrage across the world.

We have urged the Malaysian Government to join the other developing countries since last November. While the Government has secured vaccines for Malaysia, the actual delivery is totally dependent on the small number of suppliers, and there is no guarantee that we will get all we need. Look at India where the biggest manufacturer for AstraZeneca cannot export anymore because what they produce is not even enough for India itself.

The waiver that the WTO members have to adopt is not just about vaccines. It is also about medicines for treating COVID-19, diagnostics, ventilator valves, and a range of needed medical products that have patents, trade secrets and other intellectual property protection. The US supports waiver of patent and other intellectual property for vaccines which is a first step, but it is not enough.

With the new waves of infections and more virulent variants, infections are soaring. Malaysia is on a worrying upward trend with the Ministry of Health already raising the alarm that our intensive care beds are fast reaching full use. Every country including Malaysia must be prepared for this pandemic that is going to stretch for several years. Some existing medicines that are under clinical trials with potential for COVID-19 treatment are locked up in patents in Malaysia. Our local pharmaceutical industry can be part for the national health and security preparedness but they need the freedom to operate that a WTO waiver can help to speed up,

We call on the Government to not delay anymore, and to support the waiver for vaccines and also for treatment medicines, diagnostics and all the medical products needed for COVID-19.

We thank you and look forward to Malaysia joining the vast majority of the world’s governments in this urgently needed race against COVID-19.

Signed by:

Organisations and coalitions

1. Agora Society Malaysia

2. Allied Coordinating Council of Muslim NGOs Malaysia

3. Amnesty International

4. Consumers Association of Penang (CAP)

5. Health Equity Initiatives (HEI)

6. Gerakan Kepenggunaan Masjid

7. Ikatan Pengamal Perubatan dan Kesihatan Muslim Malaysia

8. Ikatan Intelegensia Membangun Malaysia

9. Jaringan Ekologi & Iklim (JEDI)

10. Majlis Tindakan Ekonomi Melayu Bersatu Berhad

11. Malaysian AIDS Council

12. Malaysia Citizens’ Health Initiative

13. Malaysian Consumers Movement

14. Persatuan Kebajikan Sokongan Keluarga Selangor dan Kuala Lumpur (Family Frontiers)

15. Pertubuhan Penggerak Masyarakat Malaysia

16. Pertubuhan Muafakat Sejahtera Masyarakat Malaysia

17. Majlis Tindakan Ekonomi Melayu Bersatu Berhad (MTEM)

18. Majlis Perundingan Pertubuhan Islam Malaysia

19. Missing Positive Malaysian Treatment Access & Advocacy Group (MTAAG+)

20. Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)

21. Penang Forum

22. Pertubuhan Kebajikan Vivekananda Rembau NS

23. Pertubuhan Wanita Malaysia untuk Kawalan Tembakau dan Kesihatan (MyWATCH)

24. Persatuan WeCareJourney

25. Pertubuhan Persaudaraan Pesawah Malaysia

26. PT Foundation

27. Prostate Cancer Society Malaysia

28. Pusat Kecemerlangan Pendidikan Ummah

29. Sahabat Alam Malaysia

30. The International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education

31. Third World Network

32. Together against Cancer

33. Teras Pengupayaan Melayu


1. Prof Dr Nur Aishah Taib

2. Assoc Prof Dr Nirmala Bhoo Pathy

3. Assoc Prof Dr Ho Gwo Fuang

4. Dr Tan.Soon Guan

5. Wong Kuan Sing

6. Khong Chee Seng

7. Ng Siu Kiam

8. Tan Weng Keong

9. Tan Yi Jie

10. Tan Yi Xin

11. Anna Mary Sebastian

12. Kenneth Koh

13. Peter Wong You Pa

14. Chen Ooi Khoon

15. Albert Liew

16. Steven Kong

17. Yong Nam Fatt

18. Tan Chung Kim

19. Cheong Pooi Wah

20. Wong Kon Lee

21. Wong Kon Len

22. Wong Kon Thye

23. Wong Kon Hee

24. Wong Kon Nyet

25. Yap Nyok Len

26. Chen Ooi Foon

27. Yap Tong Yee

28. Tan Khim Woon

29. PHANG Cheong Yuen

30. Samrull Zaman

31. Chow Chee Kong

32. Chai Nam Gnok

33. Ong Boon Tatt

34. Lee Ming Yuet

35. Leyu C. H

36. Annie Chia