Covid-19 Vaccine Patent Waiver is a Long-term Topic, Can’t Deliver in Current Crisis Situation, Says EU

A beneficiary receives Covid-19 vaccine shot at a Covid-19 centre.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that in the current global crisis due to the pandemic, scaling up production and fairly distributing vaccines globally was the need of the hour.

The European Union countries appear to once again be resisting the idea of a patent or intellectual property waiver on Covid-19 vaccines.

Addressing the press after the EU-India virtual summit, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that while the matter will be discussed by the EU, it’s a topic for the long term. She stressed that in the current global crisis due to the pandemic, scaling up production and fairly distributing vaccines globally was the need of the hour.

Leyen said a discussion on patent waiver will not bring more vaccines in a month or in a year. So, the focus should be on production and distribution. However, she added that it was important to remain open to the idea and closely look at licensing and licensing fees issues as well.

The US administration of Joe Biden announced this week that they would support a patent waiver for Covid-19 vaccines. US trade representative Katherine Tai said in a statement, “We will actively participate in text-based negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) needed to make that happen. Those negotiations will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved.”

India and South Africa have been pushing for a patent/IP waiver on Covid-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organisation. The communication from the two countries to the WTO on October 2, 2020, said, “It is important for WTO Members to work together to ensure that intellectual property rights such as patents, industrial designs, copyright and protection of undisclosed information do not create barriers to the timely access to affordable medical products including vaccines and medicines or to scaling-up of research, development, manufacturing and supply of medical products essential to combat Covid-19”.

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