EU remains opponent to Covid-19 patent waiver

How to help the countries that have been left behind in the global race for vaccines and Covid-19 treatments? Charity and state donations will not suffice to put an end to the pandemic in developing countries.

People line up to receive a Covid-19 vaccination in Mumbai. India and South Africa called for the TRIPS Waiver one year ago. Photo: Reuters

In October a year ago, South Africa and India called for a waiving of intellectual property rights on Covid-19 medications. The TRIPS (Trade-related Intellectual Property Rights) Waiver that was proposed at the WTO (World Trade Organisation) is supported by more than 100 countries, including the United States, Australia, as well as numerous civil society groups. However, the proposal has stalled due to objections from the EU and other European countries such as Switzerland. Ahead of the one-year anniversary of the call for a TRIPS Waiver, Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard said:

Since India and South Africa called for a TRIPS waiver one year ago, a staggering 3.5 million people have died from Covid-19. How many more people must die needlessly before countries do the right thing and support the lifting of patent restrictions, so Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments can be produced worldwide?

– Amnesty’s Secretary General, Agnès Callamard

Inequality in vaccine distribution might cause the pandemic to last well into 2022. Although six billion doses have already been distributed worldwide, 70 percent of these doses were administered by ten countries, while only two percent of people in low-income countries have received a vaccine dose. According to the proposal, temporarily lifting patent restrictions would be key in combatting the pandemic in developing countries. It would pave the way for additional manufacturers to help increase the production of lifesaving medical tools and to meet the global need for the vaccines. The intellectual property rights to the Covid-19 medications, such as vaccines, tests and treatments are currently being held by pharmaceutical companies, many of them based in Europe.

Greed is triumphing over human life and human rights… poorer countries are losing precious time to protect their populations.

– Agnès Callamard

The EU now remains the most high-profile opponent to the TRIPS Waiver and its stance does not seem to be changing anytime soon. The waiver could be the main solution to vaccine inequity and fighting the pandemic in developing countries: the EU must join the rest of the world in supporting the TRIPS waiver and show that it values human lives over the profits of multinational companies.

The intellectual property rights to the Covid-19 medications are currently being held by pharmaceutical companies. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Cover photo: Rebecca Conway

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