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  • 3 min read
  • Published: 17th June 2022
  • Press Release by Christine Bale

Reaction: WTO negotiations on patents for COVID-19 Vaccines in developing countries

Responding to news that governments at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) have agreed a deal on patents for COVID-19 vaccines in developing countries, Jim Clarken, CEO, Oxfam Ireland said:

“This is absolutely not the broad intellectual property waiver the world desperately needs to ensure access to vaccines and treatments for everyone, everywhere. The EU, UK, US, and Switzerland blocked that text. This so-called compromise largely reiterates developing countries’ existing rights to override patents in certain circumstances. And it tries to restrict even that limited right to countries which do not already have capacity to produce COVID-19 vaccines. Put simply, it is a technocratic fudge aimed at saving reputations, not lives.

“The conduct of rich countries at the WTO has been utterly shameful. The EU has blocked anything that resembles a meaningful intellectual property waiver. The UK and Switzerland have used negotiations to twist the knife and make any text even worse. And the US has sat silently in negotiations with red lines designed to limit the impact of any agreement. 

“Ireland, represented at the talks by the EU, have continued to show inaction, which now must be seen as a huge moral failure. Furthermore, this inaction is a show of disregard towards the will of the Irish public, given that the majority of the Irish public, the Seanad, the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence are all in favour of a full TRIPS waiver and have called on the Irish Government to reverse their opposition.

“South Africa and India have led a twenty-month fight for the rights of developing countries to manufacture and access vaccines, tests, and treatments. It is disgraceful that rich countries have prevented the WTO from delivering a meaningful agreement on vaccines and have dodged their responsibility to take action on treatments while people die without them.

“There are some worrying new obligations in this text that could actually make it harder for countries to access vaccines in a pandemic. We hope that developing countries will now take bolder action to exercise their rights to override vaccine intellectual property rules and, if necessary, circumvent them to save lives.”


For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Alice Dawson Lyons | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | 0831981869

Notes to editors:

  • Spokespeople are available for interview, including in Geneva, where the WTO is hosting its 12th ministerial conference.
  • The trade related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS) waiver would facilitate the local production of Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments in low and middle-income countries. The IP waiver was proposed in October 2020 and is supported by over 100 countries; however it is still being blocked by the EU, the UK, and Switzerland. The final text agreed is a watered down waiver of one small clause of the TRIPS agreement relating to exports of vaccines. It also contains new barriers that are not in the original TRIPS agreement text.
  • In June, the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment formally recommended that the Irish Government supports a TRIPS waiver in the context of COVID-19 vaccines and other measures to ensure equitable and safe distribution of vaccines. This recommendation followed the passage of a unanimous motion in the Seanad in December 2021 calling on the Government to support the TRIPS waiver.