People line up to receive the vaccine for COVID-19 in Mumbai, India, 25 May 2021 (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool/ISOPIX)
People line up to receive the vaccine for COVID-19 in Mumbai, India, 25 May 2021 (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool/ISOPIX)

Education International calls on the European Commission to support equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines

published 29 June 2021 updated 5 July 2021

Education International joins over 200 civil society organisations to call on the European Commission and EU Member States to support equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and other medical products through the temporary waiver of certain provisions of the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

The letter addressed to the European Commission stresses the urgent need for decisive action against the pandemic and urges the European Union to participate constructively in World Trade Organization negotiations in order to provide everyone around the world with life-saving vaccines and treatments.

The full text of the letter is available below.

We, the undersigned, would like to express our serious concerns regarding the position of the European Commission on efforts to increase access to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and other medical goods by means of a temporary waiver of certain provisions of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

For over a year, the pandemic has been ravaging societies and economies. Meanwhile, disparities in access to vaccines and other health technologies have resulted in uneven paths of recovery, with many countries yet to see any light at the end of the tunnel. The proposal from India and South Africa on a TRIPS waiver, submitted in October 2020, and the revised decision text presented in May, attempt to address inequities in access to critical commodities for controlling COVID-19. They do so by expeditiously facilitating freedom to scale up production and diversify supply options. This proposal is now co-sponsored by 63 World Trade Organization (WTO) Members and supported by more than 100 Members.

In the last nine months, the proposal has been discussed extensively and the co-sponsors have responded to questions and requests from WTO Members, including the European Union (EU). The proposal has received massive global support and is backed by United Nations agencies including the World Health Organization and UNAIDS, the scientific community, medical associations, trade unions, community and faith-based leaders, national and regional lawmakers, former presidents, prime ministers and Nobel laureates.

Within the EU, Member State legislatures in Spain, France and Italy have been vocal in supporting motions for a waiver at the WTO. Furthermore, the European Parliament recently approved a resolution “calling for support for proactive, constructive, and text-based negotiations for a temporary waiver of the WTO TRIPS Agreement, aiming to enhance global access to affordable COVID19-related medical products and to address global production constraints and supply shortages”.

On 4th June 2021, the European Commission submitted communication IP/C/W/680 to the Council for TRIPS titled “Urgent Trade Policy responses to the COVID-19 crisis: Intellectual Property”. This was followed by another communication on 18th June proposing a declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health in the circumstances of a pandemic (IP/C/W/681).

The communications presented by the European Commission to the WTO are, in our view, devoid of any useful solutions, despite this being a critical point at which the WTO should be making decisive and concrete contribution to ensure timely, equitable global access to vaccines, treatments, diagnostics, and other COVID-19 health technologies and goods.

The clarifications contained in the communications are inadequate as they address issues that have never been in dispute and that are clearly provided for in the text of Article 31, and Article 31bis of the TRIPS Agreement and the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health. These “pseudo-proposals” will create nothing but confusion and will simply serve to distract and delay discussion on the TRIPS waiver proposal.

The communications also fail to address the major underlying concern with respect to compulsory licensing - that its “case-by-case” or “product-by-product” approach is limiting during the pandemic and that this approach means additional tools are needed to overcome IP barriers. In fact, historically the EU, the US and other high-income countries have discouraged developing countries from using compulsory licensing. Further, the requirements of Article 31bis of the TRIPS Agreement have rendered the mechanism unworkable to generally address access to medicines, even more so during a pandemic.

In addition, the communications’ focus on compulsory licensing is short-sighted in that it does not address the broader challenges posed by intellectual property rights, such as trade secrets, industrial designs and copyright that are needed to produce vaccines and other health technologies.

The disparity in access between high-income and lower-income countries is vast. Latest data shows that high-income countries that represent only 16% of the world population have fully vaccinated 28.5% of their populations, while a mere 0.1% of people in low-income countries and on average about 7.8% of middle-income countries have been fully vaccinated6. Similarly access to testing, therapeutics and other health technologies remains a challenge in developing countries. There is an urgent need to scale up and diversify production of vaccine and other critical technologies.

The EU’s communications cannot be considered as an alternative to the waiver proposal to address the pandemic access issues because they do not respond to any of the elements and concerns raised by the co-sponsors of the TRIPS waiver proposal and introduces text that may instead undermine the use of existing TRIPS flexibilities. In fact, we note that the TRIPS Waiver is based on a specific process under Article IX of the WTO.

To conclude:

  • We urge the EU Member States to request that the European Commission reconsiders its communications to the TRIPS Council given that they do not offer any meaningful solutions to the issue of equitable access and may instead undermine TRIPS flexibilities.
  • We demand that the EU does not disrupt the discussions on the TRIPS waiver proposal. The EU must acknowledge the European Parliament’s opinion and constructively engage in the text-based negotiations of the TRIPS waiver proposal (IP/C/W/669/Rev.1), ensuring the will of European citizens and billions of people around the world is heard and realized.


Signatory organizations

International Organizations

1. African Centre for Global Health & Social Transformation (ACHEST)

2. Action against AIDS Germany

3. ActionAid Nederland

4. AIDS Action Europe

5. Amnesty International

6. APN+

7. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development

8. Asian Health Institute

9. Association for Proper Internet Governance

10. Australian Arts Trust / Music Trust

11. Brot füer die Welt

12. BUKO Pharma-Kampagne

13. Centre for Health and Resource Management



16. Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (Italy)

17. Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO)

18. COVID Advocates Advisory Board

19. Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN)

20. Drug Action Forum – Karnataka

21. East African Health Platform

22. Education International

23. European African Treatment Advocates Network

24. European AIDS Treatment Group

25. European Citizens' Initiative No Profit on Pandemic

26. European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU)

27. Farmamundi

28. Feminist Task Force

29. Focus on the Global South

30. Fondation Eboko

31. Fondazione Lelio e Lisli Basso Onlus

32. Foundation for Integrative AIDS Research (FIAR)

33. Frontline AIDS

34. Fundación Salud por Derecho

35. Gandhi Development Trust

36. GenderCC SA

37. Global Health Advocates / Action Santé Mondiale

38. Global People's Health Movement

39. Governance Links


41. Health Action International (HAI)

42. Health Action International Asia Pacific

43. Health Alliance International

44. Health GAP

45. HIV Legal Network (Canada)

46. Human Rights Watch

47. IFARMA Foundation

48. Latin American Institute for La Paz and Citizenship (ILAPYC)

49. IndustrialALL Global Union

50. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

51. Institute for Economic Research on Innovation

52. Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility

53. International Federation of Anthroposophic Medical Associations

54. International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC)

55. International Union of Food, Agricultural,Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers Associations (IUF)g

56. International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific)

57. IT for Change


59. Kazan Medical University

60. KEI Europe

61. Médecins du Monde

62. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Access Campaign

63. Medical Mission Institute

64. Medicina Democratica Onlus

65. Medicusmundi

66. NGO Santé Diabète

67. Oxfam International

68. Pan-African Treatment Access Movement

69. Peoples Health Movement

70. People's Health Movement (PHM) Europe

71. Pertubuhan Kebajikan Intan Zon Kehidupan

72. Pharmaceutical Accountability Foundation

73. PHM – Zambia

74. PT Foundation

75. Public Service International (PSI)

76. Right2cure/Dirittoallacura Italia

77. Salud y Fármacos

78. Sisters of Charity Federation

79. Society for International Development (SID)

80. Solidarité Agissante pour Développement Familial (SADF)

81. South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE)

82. Southern African Programme on Access to Medicines and Diagnostics (SAPAM)

83. The European Network against Commercialisation of Healthcare and Social Protection

84. The Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP+)

85. Third World Network

86. Transnational Institute

87. Transparency International Global Health

88. Treatment Action Group

89. UNI Global Union

90. University College Dublin

91. Viva Salud

92. WeMove Europe

93. Womankind Worldwide

94. World Vision Deutschland e.V.

95. Yolse, Santé Publique et Innovation

National Organizations

96. Access to Medicines Ireland

97. Acción Internacional para la Salud (AIS PERU)

98. ActionAid Ireland

99. ADSP-IB Associació per a la Defensa de la Sanitat Pública de les Illes Balears

100. Africa Japan Forum

101. Alianza por la Solidaridad-ActionAid

102. Alliance Women of Advocating for Change (AWAC)

103. All India Drug Action Network

104. Ashar Alo Society

105. Asociación de Mujeres Gente Nueva-AMUGEN-

106. Asociación por un Acceso Justo al Medicamento

107. Associação Brasileira Interdisciplinar de AIDS (ABIA)

108. Association de Lutte Contre la Dépendance

109. Association For Promotion Sustainable Development

110. Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network

111. Belgia Center for Pharmacotherapeutical Information

112. Bolivian Commitee for Consumers Protección CODEDCO

113. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA)

114. Cancer Alliance, South Africa

115. Coalition of Women Living with HIV and AIDS

116. Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD)

117. Child Way Uganda

118. CNCD-11.11.11

119. Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (HEPS Uganda)

120. Coalizione Italiana Libertà e i Diritti civili (CILD)

121. COAST Trust

122. Consumer Association the Quality of Life-EKPIZO

123. Consumers' Association of Penang

124. Cooperative and Policy Alternative Center

125. Coordinadora de Organizaciones para el Desarrollo

126. Crisis Home

127. Dandora Community Aids support Association (DACASA)

128. Ecologistas en Acción

129. Equidad de Género: Ciudadanía, Trabajo y Familia

130. Fairwatch

131. Federación de Asociaciones para la Defensa de la Sanidad Pública

132. Focsiv Italian Federation Christian NGOs

133. Forum Maranhense Das Respostas Comunitarias de Luta Contra as IST AIDS e Hepatites Virais

134. Fórum ONG AIDAS RS

135. Foundation for Male Engagement (FOME)

136. Friends of the Earth Malaysia

137. Fundación Grupo Efecto Positivo (FGEP)

138. GeneEthics

139. Gestos (soropositividade, comunicação, gênero)

140. Grupo de Incentivo à Vida (GIV)

141. Grandmothers Advocacy Network

142. Grupo de Resistência Asa Branca- GRAB

143. Grupo Pela Vidda SP

144. Handel Anders Coalitie

145. Health Equity Initiatives

146. Indonesia AIDS Coalition

147. Indonesia for Global Justice

148. Initiative for Health & Equity in Society

149. Innovations for Development (I4DEV)

150. Integrated Social Development Effort (ISDE) Bangladesh

151. International Community of Women Living with and affected by HIV- Kenya Chapter

152. IPleft

153. ItsOurFuture (NZ)

154. Just Treatment

155. Kamukunji Paralegal Trust (KAPLET)

156. Kenya Legal & Ethical Issuse Network on HIV & AIDS

157. Kenyan Network of Cancer Organizations

158. Khulumani Support Group

159. Konsil LSM Indonesia

160. Korean Pharmacists for Democratic Society

161. Malawi Health Equity Network

162. Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS (MANERELA+)

163. Malaysian Women's Action for Tobacco Control and Health

164. Milwaukee Fair Trade Coalition

165. National Alliance of People's Movements

166. national Alliance of women Human Right defenders

167. National Alliance of Women Human Rights Defenders (NAWHRD)

168. National Fisheries Solidarity

169. New Kashmir Women and Child Welfare Society

170. Non-communicable Diseases Alliance Kenya

171. Oxfam IBIS

172. Pacifc Asia Resource Center (PARC)

173. People's Health Movement (PHM) Korea

174. People's Health Movement-Japan Circle

175. Perkumpulan Medialink

176. Perkumpulan PRAKARSA

177. Pertubuhan Persaudaraan Pesawah Malaysia (PeSAWAH)

178. PHM Kenya

179. Positive Malaysian Treatment Access & Advocacy Group (MTAAG+)

180. Positive Men's Union (POMU)

181. Public Citizen

182. Red de Acceso a Medicamentos

183. Rural Area Development Programme (RADP)

184. Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust

185. Southern and East African Trade Institute - South Africa (SEATINI)

186. Servicios Ecumenicos para Reconciliation y Reconstruccion

187. Sotsium Association

188. Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute

189. Sukaar Welfare Organization

190. Tarangini Foundation

191. TB Proof

192. The Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC}

193. The People's Health Movement South Africa

194. Trade Justice Network Canada

195. Trade Justice Pilipinas

196. Trade Justice Prince Edward Island

197. Tusitukirewamu Group Bwaise

198. UFRJ

199. Uganda Key Populations Consortium Uganda (UKPC)

200. University Health Network

201. University of Naples Federico II

202. We Rise and Prosper (WRAP)

203. WEMOS

204. Women's Coalition Against Cancer- WOCACA

205. Women's Probono Initiative (WPI) – Uganda

206. Zimbabwe National Network of PLHIV (ZNNP+)