European Parliament calls for Covid-19 vaccine patent waiver

US and UK urged to abolish their export ban on vaccines and raw materials

Photo: EPA Workers unload AstraZeneca vaccines donated by the USA through the WHO's COVAX programme at the airport in Dili, East Timor, 9 June 2021.

To accelerate global vaccine rollout, MEPs demand the temporary lifting of intellectual property rights protection for Covid-19 vaccines, EP Press service reported on Thursday. In a resolution adopted with 355 votes in favour, 263 against and 71 abstentions, Parliament proposes negotiations start for a temporary waiver of the WTO TRIPS Agreement on patents to improve global access to affordable Covid-19-related medical products and to address global production constraints and supply shortages.

Voluntary licencing (when the developer of the vaccine decides to whom and under what conditions the patent can be licensed to enable manufacturing), know-how and technology transfer to countries with vaccine-producing industries are the most important way to scale and speed up global production in the long term, MEPs said.

To address production bottlenecks, MEPs call on the EU “to rapidly eliminate export barriers and to replace its own export authorisation mechanism with export transparency requirements”. The US and the UK, for their part, should “immediately abolish their export ban on vaccines and raw materials”, they say. 11bn doses are needed to immunise 70% of the world’s population and only a fraction of that amount has been produced.

As the vast majority of the 1.6bn vaccine doses administered to date have gone to vaccine-producing industrialised countries and only 0.3% to the 29 poorest countries, the EU needs to support manufacturing in Africa, Parliament emphasizes. Another important vehicle to provide vaccines to low income economies is the global vaccine distribution mechanism COVAX to which Parliament encourages contributions.

Finally, MEPs demand the full disclosure of future advance purchase agreements, particularly for next generation vaccines, and that those contracts include transparency requirements for suppliers.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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