The United States, European Union, India and South Africa have tentatively agreed on waiving intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines, Reuters reported.

The agreement now needs to be formally accepted by the 164 member countries of the World Trade Organization.

“The difficult and protracted process has resulted in a compromise outcome that offers the most promising path toward achieving a concrete and meaningful outcome,” the United States Trade Representative spokesman Adam Hodge said, Reuters reported.

The waiver will allow pharmaceutical companies in developing countries to make and export vaccines without permission from licence holders.

India, and some other developing countries, have been negotiating with the World Trade Organization for waiving the intellectual property rights.

According to the proposed text of the agreement, it has not been decided if the patents will be waived for three or five years.

The agreement has several limitations, including that the waiver will be only applicable to the World Trade Organization member countries that exported less than 10% of global exports of Covid-19 vaccines in 2021.

The World Health Organization has raised the matter of inequitable distribution of vaccines on several occasions since 2021.

In August 2021, it had noted that more than 80% of the Covid-19 vaccines had gone to high and upper-middle-income countries, even though they accounted for less than half of the world’s population.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus had said that low-income countries were only able to administer 1.5 doses for every 100 people due to lack of supply.

Meanwhile, India had stopped vaccine exports at the end of April 2021 amid the second Covid-19 wave so that doses could be administered to its population. Until then, India had either sold or donated 66 million doses to nearly 100 countries. It resumed vaccine exports in October.