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EU still without agreement on waiving patents for COVID-19 vaccines

We have too few vaccine doses worldwide, as demand far exceeds the supply. Therefore, we should explore without any prejudice all options that would bring us more products, said Michael Roth, deputy head of German diplomacy responsible for European affairs, commenting on the ongoing discussion on the COVID-19 vaccine patent release.

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“The problem is that we should increase production. We need to protect supply chains,” he assessed. Emer Cooke, the director of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), presented a similar stance.

The whole issue was presented in a completely different light by the Portuguese media, reporting on the Saturday’s European Council summit in Porto, Portugal. According to the Observador broadcaster, European Council President Charles Michel announced shortly before the summit that an agreement had been reached among EU authorities and member states to discuss a “concrete proposal” to suspend the vaccine patent. However, during the press conference at the end of the meeting, the European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen stated that the discussion was still ongoing.

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Vaccine patents waiver – a bone of contention

Earlier in May, the US President Joe Biden expressed support for a waiver of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules in the context of suspension of pharmaceutical companies’ intellectual property rights to COVID-19 vaccines. This idea has been pushed forward by India and South Africa for many months. Such a solution would enable the production of preparations against the coronavirus in developing countries, where access to the vaccine is currently very limited.

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel turned out to be the biggest opponent of the idea, stating that as a result of the suspension of vaccine patents, China may take advantage of the situation by adopting the knowledge and technology for the production of modern preparations against COVID-19. EC head Ursula von der Leyen also has doubts regarding the idea.

In turn, analysts from the Brussels-based economic intelligence company Eurointelligence suggested that the reason Germany rejected the release of patents is to defend the interests of its own companies such as BioNTech and CureVac.

Meanwhile, according to information from the Politico website, the social democrats, the Green party and the left in the European Parliament want to vote on this issue.

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