Members of the European Parliament Vote for Waiver of IP Rights to Vaccines During Pandemic
In our recent legal update we discussed the pros and cons of the proposed temporary waiving of intellectual property (IP) rights relating to COVID-19 vaccines suggested by South Africa and India to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) under the TRIPS Agreement. Until recently, the EU opposed the waiver, however the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have now voted in support of the IP waiver alongside other efforts to increase access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines such as compulsory licencing and an overhaul of supply and procurement.
The MEPs released a statement on the issue, calling for the European Commission to put pressure on regions, countries and corporations to provide a wholesale effort to end the pandemic.
To summarise, the MEPs are concerned about the ongoing development of the global crisis, particularly in low- and middle-income countries – for instance, that although as of June 2021 approximately 1.6 billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, only 0.3% have been given in the 29 poorest countries, despite this constituting about 9% of the world’s population. The MEPs therefore stress that the international community must do whatever it takes to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control and reiterate that exceptional circumstances require exceptional solutions. The MEPs also recommend an overhaul of how the EU makes advance purchase agreements, with greater transparency from suppliers including a cost-profit analysis per product. They also expect the European Parliament to regularly receive a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the production, imports, exports and forecasts of vaccines and vaccine components.