European Parliament Development Committee supports change to WTO rules for fairer global access to vaccines

May 24, 2021: The European Parliament Development Committee voted on May 20, 2021, to call on the European Union to support the suspension of intellectual property rights in the World Trade Organisation for vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 while the pandemic lasts.

The resolution “calls for the EU to set up a clear and coherent EU global COVID-19 vaccination strategy, focusing on ensuring equal, affordable and timely access to vaccination for people in developing countries.”

“Calls on the EU, therefore, to support the Indian and South African World Trade Organization initiative for a temporary waiver on intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, equipment and treatments, and urges pharmaceutical companies to share their knowledge and data through the World Health Organization COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP);

“Calls on the [European] Commission to oppose the inclusion of TRIPS-plus measures in free trade agreements with middle-income developing countries in order to ensure that all HIV antiretroviral treatments are affordable, with full respect for the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health”.

The European Commission has the power to ignore the Parliament’s resolution, but this development is still a big step forward thanks to the hard work by campaigners over many months, and shows public opinion and parliaments are supporting the waiver.

In another development in the trade rules debate, the Malaysian Prime Minister told a conference on the future of Asia that “Malaysia welcomed the Biden Administration’s stated intention on May 5th to support the temporary waiver of intellectual property (IP) protection for COVID-19 vaccine. With epidemiologists warning that we have entered a new age of pandemics, Malaysia strongly believes that the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures.

“To prepare for a long century of recurring health emergencies – the temporary IP suspension must give way to a total transformation of the pharmaceutical patent system. Pausing the gears is not enough. Our obligation is to dismantle it entirely. And Asia must lead the way in opening up patent protections to produce cheaper generic versions of life-saving medicines for critical diseases, from COVID-19 to HIV/Aids.

“Based on the United Nations (UN) Article 25(1) of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is high time for these innovations – drugs, vaccines, medical devices etc. – to be brought out of the purview of individual patent rights and for global property rights to be created instead”.