Raf Casaert in Porto
The heads of state and government of the European Union yesterday intensified their criticism of the US demand for a waiver of Covid-19 vaccination patents and argued that this step is not a short-term or medium-term improvement the vaccine supply and could even have a negative impact.
On the second day of an EU summit in Portugal, European leaders instead called on Washington to lift export restrictions if it wants to have a global impact on the pandemic.
“We don’t believe in the short term that it is the magic bullet,” said European Council President Charles Michel. French President Emmanuel Macron insisted that it was “a wrong debate” to give priority to a discussion on intellectual property rights now.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, where many large pharmaceutical companies are based, was furthest advanced and warned that a relaxation of the patent rules could affect efforts to adapt vaccines if the coronavirus mutates.
“I see more risks than opportunities,” said Ms. Merkel. “I don’t think releasing patents is the solution to getting more people into vaccines.” Instead, leaders joined previous EU calls for US President Joe Biden to boost US vaccine exports to contain the global Covid-19 crisis and insisted that this move be the most urgent Necessity is.
“I urge the US very clearly to end the export ban on vaccines and vaccine ingredients that prevent their manufacture,” said Macron.
He mentioned the German company CureVac and said it could not produce a vaccine in Europe because the necessary components were blocked in the US.
Ms. Merkel said she hoped that “now that large parts of the American population have been vaccinated, there will be a free exchange of (vaccine) ingredients.”
“Europe always has a large part of its European (Vaccine) production exported to the world, and that should become the rule, “said the longtime German head of state.
While the US has kept exports of American-made vaccines strictly under control, so that they can first get their own population vaccinate, the EU has become the world’s leading provider, enabling about as many doses to be dispensed outside of the 27-nation bloc as its 446 million residents are kept for them.
The EU has about 200 Millions of cans were distributed within the block, while roughly the same amount was exported to almost 90 countries abroad. Former EU member Britain has acted similarly to the US.
The EU is trying to regain diplomatic initiative on vaccines after Mr Biden sidelined it with his surprise approval of the revocation of patent protection for Covid-19 vaccines has urged to solve the problem of shooting people in poorer countries in the arms.
Mr Macron and other EU leaders have insisted that production capacity must first be increased by converting factories so that they can quickly start making vaccines through technology transfer.
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