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EU top official tempers support for vaccine patent waiver

Global vaccine shortage can only be resolved by boosting exports in short run, according to European Commission president

Agnes Szucs   | 07.05.2021
EU top official tempers support for vaccine patent waiver

BRUSSELS

Waiving intellectual property rights of COVID-19 vaccines will not ensure global access to jabs in the short run, a top EU official said on Friday.

"The IP [intellectual property] waiver will not solve the problems, it will not bring a single dose of vaccine in the short and medium term," Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said at a press conference following the first day of an EU leaders' summit in Porto, Portugal.

She repeated her previous remarks on being open to discussion about a temporary patent waiver but cautioned that it would be crucial to carefully assess the problem.

Von der Leyen pointed out that first, "vaccine sharing" would be necessary in the short and medium term to fight the pandemic, stressing that "we need vaccines now for the whole world."

According to her, the second-most important thing would be the export of vaccines, while investment in increasing vaccine manufacturing capacity is the third priority.

"We invite all those who engage in the debate on waiver of IP rights to join us and to commit to be willing to export a large share of what is being produced in their region," she said, explaining the around half of all vaccines produced in the EU were exported to 90 countries.

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai had said on Wednesday that the Biden administration supported the idea of lifting intellectual property protections on coronavirus vaccines to stop the pandemic.

The original proposal for a temporary waiver of intellectual property rules at the World Trade Organization (WTO) was submitted last year by India and South Africa.

Both World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Ghebreyesus and WTO head Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala welcomed the idea.

EU heads of states and government were holding a physical summit for the first time since December.

The event was hosted by the Portuguese​​​​​​​ government, assuming the turning presidency of the Council of the EU.

The first day of the summit was dedicated to enhancing the social dimension of the EU.

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