Kyriakides: Lifting patents is not way forward to produce more vaccines

European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides in Brussels, Belgium, 17 February 2021. [EPA-EFE/ARIS OIKONOMOU]

Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides on Tuesday (13 April) acknowledged the need to accelerate production of COVID-19 vaccines but stressed that lifting patents is not a way forward and that other options are under consideration.

“We do not consider at this time that we should give the chance to lift patents in order to have more vaccine production. We do not think this is the way forward, but there are several options on the table being discussed,” said Stella Kyriakides.

Kyriakides was speaking at a conference on the impact of COVID-19 on health and social effects, a meeting organised by the Portuguese Parliament’s health commission and labour and social security commission as part of the Portuguese EU presidency.

At the meeting, Kyriakides heard several MEPs from different countries emphasise the need for greater European coordination in fighting the pandemic, more transparency in funding and protocols signed with pharmaceutical companies for the production of vaccines and a more united EU in all aspects.

In this regard, the Commissioner stressed that health “is the competence of member states” and recalled that a proposal for a more robust European Health Union has been presented.

“We all recognise that European citizens have expectations of this European Health Union. (…) In this proposal, we respect what is foreseen in the treaty, and we address issues raised here, such as the shortage of medicines and medical devices, the fact that we also need more coherent policies so that patients have access to medicines in all member states and also all pharmaceutical strategies are being considered,” she said.

On the digital green certificate, the commissioner considered it “extremely important” to allow secure open borders and enable citizens to move within Europe, stressing that it is necessary, however, “to have the digital infrastructure in place so that everything is ready by the summer”.

Questioned about what is being done to prepare for the future, considering that COVID-19 may become endemic, the commissioner assured: “We are preparing the reinforcement of vaccines that will be necessary for 2022 and 2023”.

Present at this meeting, Portugal’s deputy minister for health, António Sales, classified the pandemic as “the challenge of our lifetimes” and stressed that this has affected mainly the most vulnerable.

“It is necessary to strengthen the humanisation of health care, (…) reconfiguring the organisations”, he said.

He highlighted the difficulty of acting to stop the advance of COVID-19 in some pockets of poverty, in migrants and in the areas of construction and agriculture, stating: “It is our duty to focus on the most vulnerable with an intersectoral action”.

He also underlined the need to have a Europe that “speaks with one voice” in the defence of citizens’ health.

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