The EU split over the idea of no vaccines and is unlikely to take a clear stance
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: European Union flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on February 19, 2020. REUTERS / Yves Herman / File Photo
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union leaders disagree on whether to follow Washington in supporting a waiver of patent rights for COVID-19 vaccines, as many argue that it would take years rather than the immediate problem who would tackle further shots to end the pandemic.
The heads of state and government of the 27-nation bloc will discuss the idea of patent waiver at a two-day summit that begins on Friday in the Portuguese city of Porto. However, they are unlikely to formulate a strong common position other than a general willingness to discuss the issue.
U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday supported the surrender of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines and responded to pressure from Democratic lawmakers and more than 100 other countries, but angered drug companies.
Some EU officials argue that the waiver process taking place in the World Trade Organization (WTO) could take two years, making it irrelevant to get the pandemic under control quickly.
Experts also point out that the patent waiver agreement may vary in length of time or depending on the method the vaccine uses to establish immunity, with the latest, most advanced mRNA technology being less likely to be free for everyone.
EU leaders are likely to hear advice from the bloc’s executive commission that not doing it would not help increase gun production, especially in poorer countries as they require advanced technology and facilities.
“We need an EU coordinated approach. We are not convinced that patent waivers would be effective in making more doses of vaccine available to people as the main bottleneck right now is production capacity,” said an official from an EU country.
“Production needs to be ramped up. Patents are not the main obstacle at the moment. However, we are open to discuss all possible solutions,” added the official.
Germany, whose company BionTech has a patent on a vaccine developed jointly with the USA Pfizer (NYSE 🙂 using the latest mRNA technology opposes surrender of patent rights while Italy supports it, EU officials said.
EU officials believe the best way to quickly end the pandemic and prevent new variants of the coronavirus from emerging is to increase production of shots and sell or donate vaccines to countries around the world.
“We are open to discussion of the idea and options regarding patents to see how this can help us achieve our goal of accelerating production and deliveries around the world,” a commission spokeswoman said in a regular Press conference.
The EU, which is one of the largest vaccine manufacturers in the world, is also the main exporter of shots, with 200 million doses already being shipped outside the bloc, unlike the US or UK, which do not export the vaccines they make.
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