Activists say Ireland supports ‘rich country building’ on Covid vaccine patents

Activists said Ireland supports a «rich country process» on Covid-19 vaccine patents, with intellectual property rules creating an «artificial scarcity» of vaccines and treatments.

Talks are underway at the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) TRIPS Council about a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights over Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, which would allow countries to temporarily authorize production of patented vaccines.

After initially opposing «a waiver of the TRIPS Agreement», which is backed by more than 100 countries, the European Union has made a counter-proposal to use flexibility in existing WTO rules.

And more will die in low- and middle-income countries just to ensure the profits of pharmaceutical companies

The People’s Vaccine Coalition in Ireland, whose members include Oxfam Ireland, Amnesty International Ireland and Troker Doctors for Equal Vaccines and Access to Medicines in Ireland, said the European Union is taking a stand against equality in vaccines – with the support of the Irish government.

On Tuesday afternoon, activists from the group gathered outside Dale to stage a mock funeral in protest of the EU’s stance.

The bell was ringing every four seconds, indicating that a person died from Covid-19 every four seconds. The group said a minute of silence was observed as the bell rang «in honor of those who died but may have been saved by the timely provision of vaccinations».

The emergence of the new Omicron variant, first identified in South Africa last week, is «clear evidence that the only way to end the epidemic is to vaccinate the entire world,» said Jim Clarkin, chief executive of Oxfam Ireland.

Members of the Popular Vaccine Alliance protest at Leinster House. Photo: Mark O’Sullivan.

“Instead of giving industrial rights to developing countries and ensuring that people get vaccinated to cut off new variants…the best response they can muster is to put up walls for a variant that they have allowed to develop,” he said.

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At current rates, the group said only eight percent of people in low-income countries will have had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of this year. This compares to 76 percent in high-income countries.

A coordinated call by the coalition, urging the government to support public production of vaccines and treatments for Covid-19 to address global vaccine inequalities, was signed by 400 scientists and medical professionals, including Professor Kingston Mills, Professor Sam McConkey and Professor Luke O. Nile.

artificial rarity

Clarkin said intellectual property rules have created an «artificial scarcity» in vaccines and treatments.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has killed at least five million people and impoverished hundreds of millions more. Without access to Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, many will die in low- and middle-income countries just to ensure drug companies profits,” he said.

This is not just a moral debate. In addition to being the right thing to do, ensuring universal access for all to vaccines, life-saving treatments, diagnostics and other medical tools is the only way to end the pandemic.


EU urges more tests of Omicron variant such as Irela…

«Without a generic vaccine, we will continue to develop variants that may be resistant to the vaccine and put us all at risk.»

A meeting of the WTO’s TRIPS Council, which deals specifically with the issue of TRIPS waiver, was held on Monday, but no agreement was reached on whether calls to waive TRIPS would be supported. Further meetings are scheduled for early December.

A waiver of TRIPS was first proposed by India and South Africa – two countries with strong generic drug manufacturing capacity – in October 2020 to address the availability of vaccines and therapeutic treatments, but was initially opposed by countries including the European Union and the United States.

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Since then, the United States has expressed support for a waiver that covers only vaccines, while maintaining intellectual property protections for other products such as treatments. US President Joe Biden on Monday reiterated his belief in waiving vaccines, saying the news about the Omicron formula makes it even more important to act quickly.

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