MEPs split over waiver for COVID-19 vaccine patents 

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Plenary session 
 
 

At Wednesday's debate on ensuring global access to shots, there was a lack of consensus among MEPs on a temporary waiver of patent rights for COVID-19 vaccines.

A number of speakers called on the Commission to support a waiver of the intellectual property rights (IPR) for COVID-19 vaccines as an essential element in accelerating the rollout of shots to low and middle income countries.


In turn, many MEPs argued a patent waiver is a “false good idea” that would not speed up the provision of vaccines and would harm innovation. Instead, they argued the Commission should push for voluntary licensing alongside knowledge- and technology-sharing as well as ramping up production facilities in, among other regions, Africa. This would be the fastest way to allow for a fairer global distribution of shots, they emphasised.


MEPs on both sides criticised the US and the UK for hoarding doses to excess at a time when poorer countries have little or no access to jabs. Alone among its peers in the developed world, the EU has already exported roughly half of its production to countries in need, they added.


Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, Commissioner for Trade, stressed that while the EU is ready to discuss the issue of patent waivers, its proposed solutions include limiting export restrictions, resolving production bottlenecks, looking into compulsory licensing, investing in manufacturing capacity in developing countries and increasing contributions to the COVAX scheme.


A resolution will be put to a vote during the 7 - 10 June session.


To listen to individual speakers, click on the names below.


Augusto Santos Silva, Portuguese Presidency

Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commission

Esther de Lange (EPP, NL)

Iratxe García Pérez (S&D, ES)

Dacian Cioloş (Renew, RO)

Roman Haider (ID, AT)

Philippe Lamberts (Greens/ALE, BE)

Geert Bourgeois (ECR, BE)

Manon Aubry (The Left, FR)


Watch the entire debate again.


Background


Any decision on waiving intellectual property rights would be taken by the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) TRIPS Council. In October last year, India and South Africa initiated at WTO level a proposal to temporarily exempt from IPR protection all patents related to COVID-19 prevention, containment and treatment.

The US administration recently backed India and South Africa in their earlier call for a temporary waiver of patents for COVID-19 vaccines.