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  • 3 mins read time
  • Published: 16th December 2021
  • Blog by Ben Clancy

Oxfam Ireland calls on Taoiseach to advocate for Covid-19 Vaccine IP waiver at European Council meeting

Oxfam Ireland has today (16.12.21) reiterated its appeal for the Irish Government to support a waiver on intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines and to call on the European Commission to end its blockage of the waiver proposal at the next meeting of the World Trade Organisation.

The development organisation is calling on An Taoiseach Michael Martin to advocate for EU support of the waiver at the European Council meeting, which begins today in Brussels. Over 100 countries worldwide, including the United States, are in favour of the waiver, and the European Union is now the largest block to its introduction.

The call comes as pressure grows within Government and from opposition parties, for the Government to take such a stance. On Wednesday (15.12.21) a motion – introduced by Senator Alice Mary Higgins – passed unchallenged in the Seanad on securing cross party support, including senators from coalition parties.

The waiver, known as a TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver on Covid-19 vaccine technology, would enable the temporary suspension of intellectual property rights for pharmaceutical companies, vastly increasing vaccine production across the world.

Speaking today, CEO of Oxfam Jim Clarken said: “We would like to congratulate and thank Senator Alice Mary Higgins and all Seanad members who supported the passing of this motion, for showing the leadership that has been lacking elsewhere. It is time for the Government to stop blocking this life-saving action and start working towards fair distribution of vaccines.

“Last night’s Seanad vote shows cross-party support for the waiver, including within the coalition parties. The motion also follows on from similar motions in the Italian and European parliament and pressure is now on the Taoiseach as he meets his EU counterparts today. We need him to be a leader at this point – advocating for the waiver which will save the live of millions across the globe."

“Providing greater access to vaccines in low- and middle-income countries will not only save lives in those countries, but also protect countries in this part of the world from Covid-19 variants such as Omicron. It is no surprise that the Omicron was first discovered in South Africa, in a region where vaccination rates are far below the rates here in Europe. As has been stated by the World Health Organisation time and again, until we are all protected, none of us are protected. The likelihood of new variants, greater suffering and tragedy, and greater economic and social disruption to everyone’s lives will continue unless we ensure that everyone everywhere has an opportunity to be vaccinated.”

Also speaking about the motion passed on Tuesday, Senator Alice Mary Higgins said: “Public health has to take priority in a pandemic. It is clear that a TRIPS waiver is a crucial first step in the global scaling up of vaccine manufacture and access. The longer the European Commission continues to obstruct or delay progress on this, the more lives will be unnecessarily lost. The Seanad has sent a very strong signal that they want the Irish Government to publicly support a TRIPS waiver and to show genuine commitment to human rights by calling on the European Commission to support a TRIPS waiver at the next WTO meeting.”