Biden: Expert warns vaccine promise ‘absolutely damaging’
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The European Union put forward a plan on Wednesday it believes will help boost production and availability of COVID-19 vaccines more effectively than a proposed waiver of patent rights now backed by the United States.
But Brussels’ decision to ignore US President Joe Biden’s call to share vaccines’ intellectual property was furiously criticised by a French MEP.
Manon Aubry lashed out against EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council chief Charles Michel in a series of furious tweets.
The French politician accused the two EU leaders of “hiding in shame” as they missed the debate on vaccine exports to developing countries in the European Parliament.
She blasted: “How did we come to have to debate even today the lifting of patents on vaccines?
“It should have been obvious from the start if you had not served the interests of the big pharmas!
“Millions of lives are at stake and your inaction kills.
“Two months ago I already called in this hemicycle to the President of the Commission in the face of the fiasco of the vaccine strategy of the European Union which has fallen face down in front of the big pharmas!
“It is clear that nothing has changed since.
“And besides, neither the President of the Commission Ursula von der Leyen nor the President of the Council Charles Michel did not deign to be present in front of us today to give an account.
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“I understand that they are hiding because I would be ashamed in their place.”
She continued: “Stop taking us for fools by talking about vaccines as ‘common goods’ when you do everything to keep them on the market.
“We won the cultural battle against the lies of the lobbies thanks to an unprecedented citizen mobilisation.
“Even if we were the only ones to engage in this subject at the start, including within this parliament.
“Now acknowledge your mistake and finally assume your responsibilities.
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“The lifting of patents must be immediate. Without conditions. Integral. Sustainable.
“The rest of the world is watching you and will not forgive you for another betrayal.”
Under pressure from developing countries to agree to waiving intellectual property (IP) rights for vaccines and treatments, the EU plan will focus on export restrictions, pledges from vaccine developers and use of existing World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis told the European Parliament: “Universal and fair access to vaccines and treatments must be the global community’s number one priority.”
He claimed the European Union was ready to engage in examining the extent to which temporarily waiving the WTO’s TRIPS agreement contributed to expanding vaccine availability.
India and South Africa have urged fellow WTO members since October to lift IP rights to vaccines as a way of ensuring the world is supplied.
Debate around the issue erupted anew last week when President Biden supported the idea.
However, the European Commission vice-president said the single most effective way to achieve universal access was to ramp up production, share vaccines more widely and faster and make them affordable.
Mr Dombrovskis said the EU plan had three elements.
Export restrictions should be kept to a minimum, highlighting that the EU had exported half of vaccines produced in EU countries.
French President Emmanuel Macron urged Washington on Saturday to drop restrictions on exports of vaccines and vaccine components.
Vaccine producers and developers should make concrete pledges to increase supply to vulnerable developing countries at production cost, Mr Dombrovskis said.
Finally, Mr Dombrovskis highlighted existing WTO rules allowing countries to grant “compulsory licences” to manufacturers ready to produce at cost price without the consent of the patent-holder, which could receive a payment, but not make a profit.
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