Trade rules must not impede access to COVID-19 vaccines and medical supplies

shopping cart medical supplies ©CanStockPhoto by praisaeng

(Press release4 February 2021) Today the WTO TRIPS Council is set to discuss patent protections in place for COVID-19 related vaccines and medical supplies.

Relaxing rules now could give a much-needed boost to public health efforts to eradicate the virus. 

A  ‘waiver’ on intellectual property rules will make it easier and cheaper to produce vital vaccines, protective personal equipment (PPE) and medical supplies that are needed urgently across the globe.  

Penny Clarke, EPSU Deputy General Secretary says ‘The EU and other key countries are however blocking a waiver, fearing that ‘their’ industrial champions might lose a competitive edge. Such short-sighted - and self-defeating - behaviour puts everyone at risk’. She adds ‘Only the virus profits from the secrecy, squabbles and failures about vaccine production and distribution’.   

Securing a ‘waiver’ may not be enough on its own to defeat the virus.  But it would be an important signal that governments are fully committed to working together and to giving the COVID-19 response the highest priority. 

The possibility to waive the WTO TRIPS restrictions is built into the TRIPS agreement itself, so why not use it.  If not now during the pandemic, then when?

The public interest should come above patent protections.   Health and care workers at the frontline of the pandemic demand no less.

Also see PSI  website: https://psishort.link/TRIPS for the PSI background briefing available in EN, FR, DE, ES, PT and RU and materials.

See the EPSU letter to the Trade Commissioner 

See letter from EC Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis replying to ETUC

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For more information Pablo Sanchez, psanchez@epsu.org 0032 (0) 474626633