Wednesday, May 19, 2021

MEPs Lack Consensus Over Waiver for COVID-19 Vaccine Patents

During Wednesday’s debate on ensuring global access to shots against the Coronavirus, no consensus was reached among the Members of the Parliament regarding the temporary waiver of patent rights for COVID-19 vaccines.

In a press release issued by the European Parliament, it was revealed that several speakers asked the Commission to support a waiver of the intellectual property rights (IPR) for Coronavirus vaccines as a core element in speeding up the rollout process shots to countries with low and middle incomes.

The MEPs argued that a patent waiver is a “false good idea” that would not help accelerate the provision of vaccines and, at the same time, would also harm innovation. They also argued that the Commission should recommend voluntary licensing along with technology and knowledge sharing as well as gradually increasing production facilities in other regions.

According to the Parliament, this would be the fastest way to allow equal global distribution of shots, reports.

Regarding the issue of a waiver agreement, Augusto Santos Silva said that the EU is open for discussions concerning any concrete proposals on intellectual property rights for vaccines.

“Work on vaccine sharing mechanisms must complement and support COVAX. It is worth noting here that the EU is a major exporter of vaccines to the rest of the world and a significant contributor to the COVAX facility,” Silva added.

Furthermore, on both sides, the MEPs criticised the United Kingdom and the United States for accumulating doses to excess at a time when poorer countries have little to no access at all to jabs.

Commenting on the issue, Esther de Lange pointed out that if all developed countries applied the approach ‘one vaccine to keep one for elsewhere’, the EU countries would now be further advanced against the devastating pandemic.

The EU, alone among its peers in the developed world, has already exported almost half of its production to countries in need, MEPs added.

Moreover, the Commission’s Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis highlighted that while the EU is ready to discuss the issue about the patent waivers, the solutions proposed by the Commission include:

  • Limiting export restrictions
  • Looking into compulsory licensing
  • Resolving production bottlenecks
  • Investing in manufacturing capacity in developing countries
  • Increasing contributions for the COVAX scheme

A resolution regarding the matter will be put to the vote during the June session, and it should be noted that any decision on waiving intellectual property rights will be taken by the World Trade Organisation.

Back in April, the Council of the European Union agreed to establish the EU COVID-19 Certificate proposed by the EU Commission. However, the Council noted that the certificate should not become a precondition for travel, knowing that not all countries have access to the needed doses, which would lead to discrimination.

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