Opportunity to ramp up production of lifesaving Covid-19 vaccines worldwide opposed by EU, again

Opportunity to ramp up production of lifesaving Covid-19 vaccines worldwide opposed by EU, again

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World Trade Organisation members (who met today for a council on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) have just agreed that they will engage in a text-based process on waiving Intellectual Property rules on Covid-19 vaccines, test and treatments. This means a deal, which would see a temporarily suspension of Intellectual Property, is increasingly likely. However, Europe and key governments are continuing to oppose.

In response, Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “This move to text-based negotiations is good news, because it means all WTO member states acknowledge that pharmaceutical monopolies are blocking access to life saving vaccines for millions of people and that this needs to be addressed.

“However, it is shameful that in the midst of a pandemic it has taken eight long painful months and 2.7 million deaths from Covid-19 for a handful of wealthy country government blockers to finally agree to enter formal text-based negotiations on this life saving proposal.

“Despite rising infections and the lack of vaccine stock in Africa and other regions of the world, the EU with support from Ireland continues to side with a handful of pharmaceutical corporations in protecting their monopolies against the needs of people around the world.  

“It’s unforgivable that while some are literally fighting for breath and countries continue to be overwhelmed by new waves of the virus, our political leaders continue to oppose what could be a vital breakthrough in ending this pandemic for everyone in rich and poor countries alike.  

“Ireland and the EU should now follow countries like the US and New Zealand and more than 100 developing countries and end their opposition to the TRIPS waiver. Instead, they must work together to deliver urgently needed vaccines to the world.  

“In April, Minister Simon Coveney made favourable comments about the need to ensure that the protection of vaccine patents and intellectual property rights don’t undermine efforts to address the Covid-19 pandemic globally.   

“However, disappointingly, the Irish Government continues to oppose this important measure despite initial signals of support from senior Irish politicians. This is hugely regretful for the billions of unvaccinated people around the world because the reasons put forward by EU leaders to support their approach do not stand up to scrutiny, as we recently detailed in an op-ed.  

"We call on Ireland to end its support of the EU’s position and engage with fellow EU member states to reverse the EU's continued opposition to this essential intervention - that is supported by over 100 low-and middle-income countries.   

“They can do this by backing the TRIPs waiver at the WTO and by supporting the transfer of vaccine technology through the WHO’s Covid Technology Access Pool (C-TAP). More manufacturers are coming forward by the day from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Senegal, Denmark and Canada with offers to make vaccines but are now blocked from doing so.   

“While this proposal should not be seen as a 'magic bullet' to solve global vaccine supply issues it will go a long way to bringing as much vaccine production capacity online as is possible.    

“This opportunity to speed up and scale up the production of Covid-19 vaccines will save lives and livelihoods the world over.

“Oxfam Ireland — along with a number of other NGOs, faith organisations, trade unions, and medical organisations —have proposed that a relevant Oireachtas committee undertake a detailed review of Ireland’s position on the TRIPS waiver as a matter of urgency. As we begin to see the benefits of reaching herd immunity through mass vaccination, our government should not be standing in the way of the world’s poorest citizens being afforded the same access to life-saving medicine.”     



Caroline Reid | Communications Manager | caroline.reid@oxfam.org

Notes to editors:

The TRIPS waiver proposal was first presented to the WTO on October 2, 2020. Since then to June 8, 2021, there have been a recorded 2.67 million deaths from Covid-19 worldwide.

WTO delegates agreed an urgent timetable to move negotiations forward ahead of the next General Council meeting in July.

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