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The EU Should Stop Blocking Efforts to Increase Global Vaccine Access

European Lawmakers Join Push for Waiving Intellectual Property Rules for Covid-19 Response

A person in Soweto, South Africa receives an injection as they participate in a clinical trial for a Covid-19 vaccine in June 2020.  © 2020 Siphiwe Sibeko/AFP via Getty Images

Pressure is growing on the European Commission and EU member states to reconsider their staunch opposition to measures that could open the possibility of a massive increase in Covid-19 vaccine production worldwide.

In an unprecedented joint appeal, hundreds of lawmakers across Europe have joined the Director-General of the World Health Organization, over 100 national governments, trade unions, and hundreds of civil society organizations, including Human Rights Watch, in urging the EU and its member states to support a proposal by India and South Africa to temporarily suspend certain intellectual property rules until widespread vaccination is in place globally.

The proposal would facilitate technology transfers so that Covid-19 medical products, including vaccines, could be produced quickly and affordably by manufacturers around the world, in line with a rights-based approach to the pandemic and growing calls for a “peoples’ vaccine” freely available to all.

In the absence of such open sharing of know-how, the vast majority of vaccines currently available are going to some of the world’s richest countries, exacerbating global inequalities and leaving many low- and middle-income countries at the bottom of the waiting list. Human Rights Watch and many others have been warning against this situation for months.

As EU heads of state prepare to discuss the bloc’s response to the pandemic later this week, they should heed the calls coming from elected representatives and citizens and reconsider their opposition to the intellectual property waiver. As European lawmakers put it, “we will not defeat the virus until we defeat it everywhere.” And with new strains emerging all the time, we will hardly defeat it anywhere without a mass global vaccine rollout. The pandemic has already had an enormous human and economic cost. European leaders should stop standing in the way of a measure that could accelerate and increase global vaccine production and availability and bring us closer to ending the pandemic.

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