EU TO DEBATE COVID VACCINE PATENT WAVER AFTER U.S. U-TURN
The leaders of the European Union are to discuss waiving intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines this week, after the United States shifted position on the policy that could allow many poorer countries to produce their own vaccines, Leonie Kijewski and Ella Joyner reported for Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).
"The EU is also ready to discuss any proposals that address the crisis in an effective and pragmatic manner," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday, despite previously signaling personal opposition to the move.
"That's why we are ready to discuss how the US proposal for a waiver on intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines could help achieve that objective," the EU executive chief said at a press conference.
There is increasing concern that richer countries in Europe and North America where many jabs are patented and manufactured are racing ahead in vaccinations, leaving behind much of the world population.
The EU, US and other vaccine-producing countries have also been accused of hoarding the vaccines and of being more concerned about protecting profits for the pharmaceutical industry.
On Wednesday, the US came out in favor of suspending patent rights and indicated it would take an active role in the necessary World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations to make this happen. India and South Africa officially proposed the move last year but met a lukewarm reception from Western nations.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed Washington's new position on Thursday, saying it "opens the opportunity for vaccine producers to share the knowledge and technology that will allow the effective expansion of locally produced vaccines."