Photo by Swarnavo Chakrabarti on Unsplash
Photo by Swarnavo Chakrabarti on Unsplash

Lives over profit: European Commission must support intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines and medical products

published 14 June 2021 updated 17 June 2021

Education International welcomes the resolution adopted by the European Parliament on June 10 calling “for support for proactive, constructive and text-based negotiations for a temporary waiver of the World Trade Organisation TRIPS Agreement”.

Put forward by South Africa and India, the TRIPS Waiver proposal aims to lift intellectual property barriers on COVID-19 vaccines and medical products in order to boost global production and accelerate the response to the crisis. Over 100 countries are in favour of the waiver proposal at the World Trade Organisation.

After the United States came out in support of the TRIPS Waiver, the European Union (EU) remains the proposal’s main opponent, with the European Commission adopting an “anything but waiving patents” approach.

While the EU initially expressed its willingness to discuss the proposal backed by the US, the European Commission (EC) tabled a communication at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and maintained opposition to the waiver, together with the UK, Switzerland and South Korea. Focusing on limiting export restrictions on vaccines and related ingredients, as well as facilitating the use of existing TRIPS flexibilities like compulsory licensing, the proposals included in the EC communication would fail to achieve urgent equitable access to lifesaving COVID-19 medical products and tools.

Other recent developments include Emmanuel Macron’s statement of support for the waiver ahead of the G7 Summit and the WTO TRIPS Council’s decision to start text-based discussions on the TRIPS waiver proposal. Regrettably, the G7 summit communiqué only referred to constructive engagement with discussions at the WTO on the role of intellectual property.

Education unions mobilise for vaccine equity

Education International has been a leading voice in opposition to vaccine nationalism and big pharmaceutical companies profiteering from a global pandemic.

“The progress we have seen in the past few days shows that global solidarity and mobilisation matter. More and more countries are realising that we can only get through this pandemic together. We need to redouble our efforts and convince the few opposing countries left to back the TRIPS waiver without delay.”

David Edwards, Education International General Secretary

Get informed and take action!

If you want to join the global movement for vaccine equity, please consult our dedicated page.

The Education International statement calling on governments to ensure equal access to COVID-19 vaccines and other medical products by waiving intellectual property rights is available here.

“Covid Story Will End with Equity and Leadership”, the blog by Education International’s General Secretary, David Edwards, is available here.