“We do not believe that the issuance of patents for the production of vaccines is the best solution in the short term. But we are ready to participate in this topic as soon as a specific proposal is put on the table.”
During a working dinner on Friday, the leaders discussed the issue of how to support the start of vaccination in poor countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, which are not yet vaccinated. They had a suggestion on the table that pharmaceutical companies would temporarily lose their patent rights in order to expand vaccine production worldwide as quickly as possible.
The idea is being promoted by hundreds of World Trade Organization (WTO) countries, including the United States. Before the negotiations, France and Spain, for example, supported them with reservations, while Germany rejected the idea that vaccine manufacturers had criticized. The German company BioNTech, in cooperation with the US company Pfizer, is the largest supplier of vaccines to the European Union.
Michel, like a number of European Union leaders, said that other developed countries, in the form of a European bloc, should start exporting a large proportion of the vaccines produced on their soil. European Union politicians have always called on Britain and the United States to get more involved.
The United States wants to share patents
On Wednesday, however, President Joe Biden’s administration joined calls for technology-sharing to accelerate the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Catherine Tye, US Sales Representative, announced that while the United States supports intellectual property protection, it supports the issuance of patents in epidemic circumstances. “The exceptional circumstances of the Covid-19 epidemic require exceptional measures,” she said.
According to Michel, the European bloc is ready to discuss this matter further. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said this week that the benefits of the decision would be faster production and distribution of the vaccine.
On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “completely in agreement.” His statement was a step forward, as France has so far insisted on discouraging companies from innovation, calling for the suspension of patent protection as a last resort.