EU lawmakers back Covid vaccines patent waiver

by AFP

BRUSSELS – The European Parliament has urged the EU to back a push for a temporary waiver of coronavirus vaccine patents, in the face of scepticism from Brussels and key member states. 

Lawmakers voting late Wednesday narrowly approved an amendment calling on the bloc “to support the Indian and South African World Trade Organization (WTO) initiative for a temporary waiver on intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, equipment and treatments, and urges pharmaceutical companies to share their knowledge and data”. 

EU leaders this month said they were willing to discuss patent waivers after US President Joe Biden backed the plan — but called for more details on the proposal and urged other major producers to first increase their exports of much-needed jabs.

EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis told lawmakers on Wednesday that Brussels would put forward its own proposal at the WTO focused on boosting production and freeing up exports.    

He insisted Brussels would “engage constructively” to see if a temporary waiver of patents could help bolster global supplies and access to the doses.

WTO boss Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was set to meet EU trade ministers for talks in Brussels on Thursday. 

The World Health Organization, India and South Africa have all called for patents to be temporarily suspended in a bid to help boost deliveries to poorer nations struggling to vaccinate their populations. 

The EU points to the fact that it has exported over 200 million vaccine doses — while other key manufacturers such as the US and Britain have sent only limited supplies abroad. 

Officials from the bloc have said the hoarding of crucial ingredients needed for vaccines by some nations was a larger obstacle than patent protection.