European Parliament News: Parliament calls for temporary COVID-19 vaccine patent waiver

  • Patent waiver will enhance global access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines
  • Voluntary licensing, transfer of know-how and technology key to ramping up global production in long term
  • Call on US and UK to abolish export ban on vaccines and raw materials
  • More support for global vaccine distribution mechanism COVAX
Temporary lifting of patent protections would speed up global vaccine delivery, Parliament says © Kim LUDBROOK/POOL/AFP   
Temporary lifting of patent protections would speed up global vaccine delivery, Parliament says © Kim LUDBROOK/POOL/AFP

To accelerate global vaccine rollout, MEPs demand the temporary lifting of intellectual property rights protection for COVID-19 vaccines.

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. MEPs also point to the threat that an indefinite TRIPS Agreement waiver would pose to research finance, in particular for researchers, investors, developers and clinical trials.

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, said MEPs.

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.  11 billion doses are needed to immunise 70 percent of the world’s population and only a fraction of that amount has been produced.

Vaccine production in Africa

As the vast majority of the 1.6 billion vaccine doses administered to date have gone to vaccine-producing industrialised countries and only 0.3 percent 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.

Transparency for next generation vaccines

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.

Background

Any decision on waiving intellectual property rights would be taken by the WTO TRIPS Council, in session on 8-9 June with the Commission presenting the European proposal that does not include a waiver. At a debate preceding the adoption of the resolution, several political groups argued in favour of lifting the intellectual property rights protections on COVID-19 related vaccines.

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