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European MEPs back proposal for TRIPS waiver on vaccines

India and South Africa had urged WTO members for a waiver of certain rules of the TRIPS agreement that would facilitate sharing of intellectual property and know-how on vaccines (Bloomberg)Premium
India and South Africa had urged WTO members for a waiver of certain rules of the TRIPS agreement that would facilitate sharing of intellectual property and know-how on vaccines (Bloomberg)

  • This comes against the backdrop of several countries facing a shortage of vaccines, even as newer strains of the virus are emerging
  • It is clear that urgent and exponential increase in manufacturing and availability of vaccines, tests, medicines and protective material is needed, the MEPs said

More than 250 members of European Parliament (MEPs) and national parliamentarians have urged the European Union (EU) to support a temporary patent waiver demanded by India and South Africa in the World Trade Organization (WTO) to exponentially increase availability of coronavirus vaccines across the world especially in poor countries.

This comes against the backdrop of several countries facing a shortage of vaccines, even as newer strains of the virus are emerging.

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One year after the adoption of the first lockdown measures in Europe, it is clear that urgent and exponential increase in manufacturing and availability of vaccines, tests, medicines and protective material is needed, the parliamentarians said in their joint appeal. “That requires wider sharing of proprietary technology and know-how, data and resources, especially with low- and middle-income countries," they said.

In a submission before the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Council of WTO on 2 October, India and South Africa had urged WTO members for a waiver of certain rules of the TRIPS agreement.

They said this would ensure that intellectual property rights such as patents, industrial designs, copyright, and protection of undisclosed information do not create barriers to timely access to affordable vaccines and medicines or to scaling up research, development, manufacturing, and supply of medical products essential to combat covid-19.

The proposal has been discussed orally many times at the TRIPS Council but a consensus for a text-based negotiation has not been reached yet. Developed countries including the US, European Union, Canada, Japan, UK, Australia, and Switzerland have opposed the proposal, which has been co-sponsored by Kenya, Eswatini, Mozambique, Pakistan, Bolivia, Venezuela, Mongolia, Zimbabwe, Egypt, the African Group and the Least Developed Countries Group.

“The waiver proposed by South Africa and India would facilitate the sharing of all intellectual property and know-how. It will lift IP monopolies, remove legal uncertainty, and provide the freedom to operate to enable collaboration to increase and speed up the availability, accessibility and affordability of covid-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments globally," the parliamentarians said.

It is in everyone’s interest to work collaboratively to ensure that widespread vaccination is in place globally as quickly as possible and remove all obstacles, the European parliamentarians said. “EU leaders should urgently reconsider their position and support the TRIPS waiver proposal to protect people’s rights to life, health, and adequate standard of living," they said.


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