European leaders expressed increasing skepticism on Friday that a U.S. proposal to lift patent protections on COVID-19 vaccines would solve the problem of getting shots at people of the poorest. countries, with some instead calling for more exports of doses already in place. .
While activists and humanitary groups applauded the Biden administration’s decision and urged others to follow it, European Union leaders led the message that any benefit from a temporary neglect of intellectual property protections is long overdue. to come.
However, they put the U.S., in particular, on duty for not sharing many vaccines around the world.
“You can give intellectual property to laboratories without knowing how to do it. They won’t do it tomorrow,” French President Emmanuel Macron said at a summit in Portugal, though he also said that he agreed to waive the protections.
EU officials insisted that the World Trade Organization’s writing rules could also last months or even a year, and said they found some examples, if any, that the issues of intellectual property prevents the launch of vaccines.
Proponents of a patent waiver argue it would allow more factories around the world to make explosives, increasing supply, especially in the poorest countries. The decision ultimately rests with the 164 -member WTO, and if only one country votes against a waiver, the idea will not succeed.
Macron said the key issues are donations and exports, a controversy that is also being raised in the pharmaceutical industry, and he said the U.S. needs to do more up front.
The U.S. has no ban on the export of vaccines or a ban on the export of ingredients for vaccines.
But the federal government controls hundreds of millions of doses produced in the country under the terms of its contracts with drug manufacturers and is first in line for some raw materials made by U.S. suppliers.
The U.S. ships to Canada and Mexico about four million doses from storage vaccines from AstraZeneca, which has not yet applied for U.S. authorization, and it plans to begin exporting up to 60 million dose in the coming months.
Last week, the U.S. also transferred some of the raw materials used for AstraZeneca to India as part of relief efforts for the struggling country.
Macron, however, boasts that almost half of the doses produced in the EU – or about 200 million – are allowed to be exported.
“We are the most generous in the world of developed countries,” he said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday that the U.S. “will work with international partners, along with pharmaceutical companies to supply, to get as much supply from the global community as possible” .
WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala echoed some sentiments expressed by European leaders at a virtual conference on Friday, citing that the adoption of patent protections could help promote proper governance. access to vaccines but this may not be the most critical issue in expanding vaccine production. .
Other key measures include reducing restrictions on the export of the same vaccines and ingredients needed to make it happen, sharing the expertise behind the shots, training manufacturing staff and increasing the capacity of the manufacturing around the world.
Meanwhile, Germany, a research powerhouse with a strong biotech and pharmaceutical sectors, has spoken out against abandoning protections and also urged more exports.
“The main issue is not the question of patents. The main issue is the question of production capacity,” said German Health Minister Jens Spahn, noting that the production of vaccines is like a made by German company BioNTech – and manufactured by Pfizer – is very complex.
However, he stressed that developed countries with a good vaccination campaign should export more shots.
“We still have a lot to export,” he said. “I can only be happy if the United States changes their policy and makes vaccination doses available for other countries.”
Fatima Hassan, a human rights lawyer and director of the Health Justice Initiative in South Africa, welcomed the Biden administration’s announcement but said it was “eight months late”.
“We can’t wait for months for this waiver to end,” he said.
Hassan said countries with “over-ordered” vaccines “ironically hinder the waiver and the ability of people on the world’s low-income people to access vaccines”.