Irish president calls for EU leaders to support global vaccine coverage

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins. [EPA-EFE/WAEL HAMZEH]

Irish President Michael D. Higgins has written to the 14 other members of the Arraiolos Group, urging support for waiving COVID-19 vaccine patents and increasing the rollout of vaccinations globally.

In a letter to the group, comprised of the non-executive Presidents of EU countries, Higgins said that ensuring a “global, equitable and sustainable response to the COVID-19 pandemic” was “a moral issue of the first order for us collectively both as Europeans and as global citizens.”

Noting the low vaccination rates that remain in many parts of the world, he called for fellow leaders to support the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), a platform launched in 2020 for the sharing of pandemic-related data, intellectual property and best practices.

The letter also urged support for a TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement waiver to ensure equitable global access to vaccines.

Such a waiver was proposed by India and South Africa in October 2020 but was blocked by the EU and several other countries, including the UK, Norway and Switzerland. For the measure to be adopted, the consensus of all 164 members of the World Trade Organisation is required.

“Maximising global production means sharing access to the vaccine technology, the know-how and intellectual property,” said Higgins, who on Wednesday will meet with Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme to discuss the importance of equitable vaccine distribution.

However, resource-sharing and support for a TRIPS waiver alone would not be sufficient in ensuring equal access to vaccines, Higgins also said.

These measures “will need to be supplemented by a more comprehensive strategy that encompasses the ratcheting up of production capability and capacity, and the development of proper channels of distribution,” he added.

(Molly Killeen | EURACTIV.com)

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