Member countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) have been unable to agree on a proposal for a waiver from patents and other rules for efforts to combat the pandemic.

The initiative led by South Africa and India seeks to support the widespread production of Covid-19 vaccine treatments and medical equipment.

The WTO members agreed to continue the discussions.

The organisation’s rules require member countries to protect patents and copyright, so that inventors can make a return on their investment.

But the Indian delegation at the WTO told a meeting that the world is not producing enough vaccines – despite the existence of several approved ones and unused manufacturing capacity.

The proposal to waive patent rules aims to make it easier for some poorer countries to produce vaccines themselves.

A number of rich countries, along with Brazil, oppose the proposed waiver.

They say patents are important incentives for innovation and they say the rules already have enough flexibility for the current crisis.

The Indian delegate said the waiver was being opposed by the same countries that had hoarded more vaccines than they needed, which was hindering a coordinated global programme.