February 18, 2022
“EU squander chance for global vaccine equity at EU-AU summit” – Chris MacManus MEP

“EU squander chance for global vaccine equity at EU-AU summit” – Chris MacManus MEP
 
“The EU-AU summit could have been an opportunity to push forward negotiations about a TRIPS Waiver for Covid-19 vaccines and treatments,” said Chris MacManus, MEP for the Midlands Northwest. “Instead, it became yet another lost chance for achieving global vaccine equity.” 
 
The Sixth European Union – African Union summit will took place today and yesterday (17-18 February), with access to Covid-19 vaccines high on the agenda. It is an issue that has strained the partnership between the EU and the African Union. While on average 70% of people in Europe are fully vaccinated, this figure is only 11% for people in Africa. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta have accused Europe of ‘vaccine apartheid’. The African Union has called for wording on the TRIPS Waiver to be included in the joint conclusions of the summit, but the EU refuses to accept such a wording, instead supporting weak and vague language about a WTO response on trade and health.”
 
“The European Commission and Council called the summit an occasion to ‘renew our partnership with Africa’. This is the height of hypocrisy from two institutions that refuse to engage on one of the primary concerns of their African Union partners,” said MacManus. “While almost 100 countries have expressed support for a TRIPS Waiver, the EU has refused to enter into text-based negotiations. The European Commission and Member State governments are not only ignoring the African Union’s demands, but also those of the European Parliament and the quarter of a million people have signed the European Citizens’ Initiative No Profit on Pandemic.”
 
“The EU has insisted on prioritising intellectual property above the health of billions of people, arguing that intellectual property is crucial for spurring innovation in research. Speaking in advance of the summit, the Tánaiste said it was important to avoid countries using the pandemic to undermine innovation and intellectual property. Similar arguments were made against the generic production of treatments for HIV/AIDs – a move which actually greatly encouraged new innovations and saved millions of lives.” 
 
“In reality, intellectual property is being used to quash innovation. A biotechnology company in South Africa has successfully copied Moderna’s mRNA vaccine, despite not receiving any technology transfer from the pharma giant. It is clear that innovation potential and mRNA production capacity are alive and well in Africa, despite the big pharma’s claims to the contrary. Now, Moderna are actually filing new patents in South Africa that will scupper the success of the replica vaccine.”
 
“With its refusal to engage on a TRIPS Waiver, the EU has made it clear that it prioritises corporate profits above any desire to renew its partnership with the African Union”, MacManus concluded. “It is hugely disappointing that the Irish government continues to echo the EU line on this, despite December’s Seanad motion that expressed cross-party support for a TRIPS Waiver. EU countries had a chance to put themselves on the right side of history during the EU-AU summit. However, it appears they have squandered this chance.” ENDS
 
NOTES TO EDITOR:
Moderna tries to scupper Afrigen mRNA vaccine: https://www.commondreams.org/news/2022/02/14/african-civil-society-slams-moderna-attempt-derail-vaccine-project
 
Tánaiste quote in advance of EU-AU summit: https://www.euractiv.com/section/africa/news/eu-africa-at-odds-over-vaccine-patents-ahead-of-summit/

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