EU wants to improve global vaccine supply – without patent approval

To supply poor countries with corona vaccines, the European Union is relying on the dismantling of export barriers and higher production – but not on the release of patents for the time being. This became clear over the weekend at the EU summit in Portugal. Chancellor Angela Merkel clearly rejected the weakening of intellectual property rights. In contrast to most of the other heads of state and government, Merkel only took part in the meeting via video.

US President Joe Biden’s push for patent release and the further fight against the corona pandemic were temporarily the focus of the two-day summit in the coastal city of Porto. The real topic, however, was the strengthening of social rights for the Europeans, to which the 27 states are committed in a “Declaration of Postage” once again expressly known.

On Saturday, the heads of state and government also held a video consultation with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, agreed to restart trade talks and promised India assistance in the face of the devastating corona situation there. In the country with more than 1.3 billion inhabitants, more than 4,000 people currently die from the virus every day. It is feared that the real number is much higher.

“The EU stands by India’s side in full solidarity at this difficult time,” said EU Council President Charles Michel. They also talked about cooperation in vaccination. “Covid has been the greatest challenge to global solidarity for generations. The only way out is to immunize the world’s population.”

So far, however, very few have been vaccinated in poorer countries. Surprisingly, Biden had now backed the demand to temporarily revoke patents. Then other manufacturers could produce without license fees. Pope Francis also spoke out in favor. The pharmaceutical companies that own the rights are resisting this.

Merkel also said that this would not be the solution to make vaccine available to more people. “I believe that we need the creativity and innovative strength of companies.” Other EU countries were more open. But the EU as a whole does not see a “miracle solution” in the patent release, as Council chief Michel said. It is important to allow vaccine exports.

This reference also refers to the USA, which primarily keeps its domestic production itself. According to its own account, the EU is currently the only democratic region that carries out corona vaccine on a large scale. Half of the 400 million cans produced here were exported.

In addition, the EU is already helping to set up local vaccine facilities, for example in Africa, said Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Another major initiative is planned. Merkel said that at least German companies would quickly issue licenses for production abroad. The problem is not “that someone is sitting on their patent”.

The Mainz manufacturer Biontech also rejects a patent release, but offered price advantages for poor countries. A spokeswoman assured them that they would be supplied “at a not-for-profit price”. Patents are “not the limiting factor for the production or supply of our vaccine”. The production is complex. If requirements are not met, quality, safety and effectiveness could suffer.


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