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The European Commission and European Union (EU) Member States continue to ignore growing calls for a patent waiver that would increase global production and availability of COVID-19 vaccines and related equipment. Recently, nearly 400 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and of national Parliaments from across the EU signed a joint appeal expressing their unequivocal support for the measure, adding their voice to that of 175 Nobel laureates and former Heads of State and Governments, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), scientists, trade unions, NGOs and the general public.
In October 2020, South Africa and India submitted a proposal at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to temporarily waive certain intellectual property (IP) rights under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) until widespread vaccination is in place globally. Since then, and despite the growing support for the initiative, the discussions have not gone beyond the exchange of clarifications and additional explanations. This is due to the opposition of a handful of countries, most notably the EU and its Member States, the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan, among others. Supporting the TRIPS waiver would be among the most powerful and effective available ways for governments to demonstrate their commitment to global cooperation and increase global access to vaccines.
It is evident that there are insufficient vaccine doses because of limited manufacturing capabilities and other challenges to the supply chain. Traditional voluntary mechanisms will not and cannot deliver the scale-up of production and technology transfer needed to respond to this challenge. Initiatives like the COVAX facility depend heavily on pledges and commitments that have yet to materialise, and in any case would be insufficient to provide the level of coverage needed to bring a timely end to the pandemic. If the situation remains unchanged, the interests and profits of the few will determine the fate of most. As the Director General of the World Health Organization has said, we face the risk of a “catastrophic moral failure”.
It is not too late for the European Commission and EU governments to change course and finally listen to leading experts and elected representatives, dropping the opposition to the TRIPS waiver and engaging in text-based negotiations.
Association des Femmes de l’Europe Méridionale (AFEM)
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO)
European African Treatment Advocates Network (EATAN)
European AIDS Treatment Group (EATG)
European Network against Privatization and Commercialization of Health and Social Protection
European Public Service Union
Global Network of People Living with HIV
Health Action International (HAI)
Human Rights Watch
International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFSMA)
Médecins du Monde
Public Services International (PSI)
Right to Cure – European Citizens’ Initiative
Society for International Development (SID)
Centrale Nationale des Employés (CNE)
Coalition for Research and Action for Social Justice and Human Dignity
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Observatoire Transparence Médicaments
Global Health Advocates
Brot für die Welt
World Vision Deutschland
Access to Medicines Ireland (AMI)
Pharmaceutical Accountability Foundation
Asociación por un Acceso Justo al Medicamento
Club de Madrid
Médicos Sin Fronteras (MSF) España
Salud por Derecho
Salud y Farmacos