Covid vaccine supply to poorer countries must be increased, President says

Michael D Higgins writes to European heads of state about ‘moral issue of first order’

President Michael D Higgins has written to other European heads of state urging that the supply of Covid-19 vaccines to poorer countries be increased, describing it as “a moral issue of the first order”.

In a letter to 14 non-executive presidents of European Union countries, the President urged the EU to support the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) efforts to overcome obstacles to increasing vaccine supply to developing countries, where vaccination rates have lagged far behind their rich world counterparts.

Mr Higgins’s letter came after a meeting of the “Arraiolos” group of non-executive presidents in Rome in September which “recognised that universal and equitable access to vaccines was a critical component in the fight against the pandemic”, Áras an Uachtaráin said in a statement.

“It is widely recognised that the longer it takes to achieve global vaccination thresholds, the more lives will be lost and the greater the cumulative damage to societies and economies worldwide,” it said.


Mr Higgins also noted the “compelling support for a Trips [Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights] waiver among the public and its representatives”, though the Government has not supported the proposal.

“Maximising global production means sharing access to the vaccine technology, the know-how and intellectual property,” the President wrote.

“There is a mechanism in place that can enable this sharing. The Covid-19 Technology Access Pool [C-Tap] launched by the WHO in April 2020 is meant to act as a one-stop shop for pooling all data, know-how, biological material and intellectual property and then license production and technology transfer to other potential producers.

“However, I fully recognise that support for a Trips waiver and the mechanism for sharing access to vaccine technology, know-how and intellectual property, as launched by the WHO, of themselves will not be enough. They will need to be supplemented by a more comprehensive strategy that encompasses the ratcheting up of production capability and capacity, and the development of proper channels of distribution.”

Áras an Uachtaráin also said that the President would meet Dr Mike Ryan of the WHO on Wednesday. “At the meeting, they will discuss the importance of equitable vaccine access and the President will also present Dr Ryan with a Presidential Distinguished Service Award, which recognises the contribution of members of the Irish diaspora.”

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times