Lawmakers urge EU U-turn to back vaccine patent waiver

FILE PHOTO: A nurse prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine
·2 min read

By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -The European Parliament urged the European Union to reverse its position and support a proposed temporary lifting of intellectual property (IP) rights for COVID-19 vaccines, backing a push by many developing nations to allow more production.

EU lawmakers backed by 355 votes to 263 a resolution on accelerating the global roll-out of vaccines, the parliament announced on Thursday.

The resolution says only a fraction of the 11 billion shots needed to vaccinate 70% of the world's population has been produced and that relying on pledges of excess doses from richer nations is not enough.

The text says that international trade policy needs to play a role in facilitating trade and revisiting global IP rules.

South Africa and India have been pressing for eight months at the World Trade Organization for a temporary waiver of IP rights that could allow more manufacturers to produce shots.

Developed nations home to large pharmaceutical companies, including the European Union, have resisted, arguing that a waiver would not boost production and could undermine future research and development on vaccines and therapeutics.

The non-binding resolution increases pressure on the European Commission to be constructive in WTO negotiations. However, it is unlikely to change its view that the best and fastest way to increase production is to use the flexibility of existing IP rules, as it has proposed at the WTO.

The Commission, which oversees EU trade policy, said it was not convinced that a waiver was the best option.

The resolution also puts lawmakers at odds with European Council president Charles Michel, who said a patent waiver was "not a silver bullet".

The European Parliament resolution calls for support of "proactive, constructive and text-based negotiations" for the temporary waiver.

The text will be sent to the Commission, the Council, to all EU governments and parliaments, to the head of the World Trade Organization, G20 governments and other international institutions.

The resolution also says it regrets moves by Britain and the United States to create a re-sale market to sell surplus vaccines to other industrialised countries and urges both to abolish export restrictions on vaccines and their required raw materials.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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