The agreement on a Trade-related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver for Covid-19 vaccines, reached today at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) maintains vaccine inequality and is far from a serious measure to end the pandemic.

After more than two years of a pandemic that killed nearly 15 million people, the EU’s position to put corporate profit before public health is undeniably outrageous.

The text agreed will not lead to an increase in vaccine production because countries won’t have access to the formula to make vaccines or the production method details. The only restrictions that are effectively waived refer to the exports of generic vaccines. The agreement also doesn’t cover tests and treatments. Worse, the text adds new restrictions on the production and supply of vaccines that could hinder developing countries’ ability to tackle future pandemics.

 The coronavirus pandemic again raised questions about the multilateral trade regime for intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and how it limits access to essential medical products. In October 2020, India and South Africa, supported by a large number of developing countries, submitted an initial proposal for a temporary waiver in response to Covid-19. The US administration was in favour of a vaccine waiver. However, the EU blocked the proposal, despite the European Parliament’s position.

Today’s agreement is a victory for corporate lobbyists to the detriment of saving lives. We can’t accept that some corporations dictate the world’s ability to produce the medicines needed to end a global pandemic, because they “own” the research behind them, largely funded with public money.

Helmut Scholz, Left MEP (Die Linke, Germany), said: “The EU’s intransigence when it comes to waiving patents for Covid-19 cost millions of lives. This will also impact future pandemics.

The need for World Trade Organisation (WTO) reform is obvious. While recognising that the functioning of the WTO is based on compromises from all members, the years-long negotiating battle demonstrates once more the need for a profound reform of the negotiating procedures in the WTO. The compromise found in this package deal on TRIPS, health, food storage, agriculture, and fisheries might satisfy the Indian government and large generic producers, but millions of ordinary people in developing countries will pay the price.”

Marc Botenga, Left MEP (PTB, Belgium) commented on the agreement: “This is not a waiver. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) fails to waive intellectual property rights on health technologies. The text even tries to further limit existing rights to override patents in certain circumstances. In essence, it rejects the principle that health is more important than the profits of the pharmaceutical industry. The responsibility for this failure lies squarely with the European Union. The EU waged an 18-month war of attrition on any TRIPS-waiver. A war on the right to health of the global South. Today it won a battle, but the fight will go on. Universal access to the best health technologies is a right and requires waiving intellectual property rights.”

Related Meps

Marc Botenga

Parti du Travail de Belgique / Partij van de Arbeid van België

Helmut Scholz


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