EU and global access to vaccines

 

Sir, – We, as members of the Dáil and Seanad, have written to the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste to encourage the Government to support a temporary waiver on trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) on Covid-19 vaccine technology as an important step to increase global access to vaccines and accelerate the ending of this pandemic.

While it will be the European Commission that represents the European Union countries when this waiver is discussed at the next meeting of the World Trade Organisation on July 27th, Ireland can play a key role in advocating for the commission to take a progressive position.

As Winnie Byanyima, the executive director of UNAIDS, recently told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, increasing global vaccine access is “a moral, public health and economic imperative”.

It also makes sense from an economic perspective as it accelerates the ending of the pandemic. There also a very real concern that the longer the virus retains access to huge parts of the world’s population, the more opportunities it has to develop new variants, including variants which may prove more resistant to vaccines.

That is why over 100 countries and the World Health Organisation are all supporting proposals for a TRIPS waiver.

Even the United States, which has a reputation as a strong supporter of intellectual property rights, has announced openness to a waiver, with US trade representative Katherine Tai stating: “This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures.”

The opposition to a waiver from the European Commission on behalf of the European Union is now very much a minority position and has been internationally criticised as contributing to the unnecessary prolongation of the pandemic and undermining the social and economic sacrifices so many have made in an effort to end this pandemic.

Equitable global vaccine access is a historic global test of our commitment to human rights and public health.

Ireland should not be found wanting. We are calling on the Government to publicly advocate for the European Commission to support a TRIPS waiver at the WTO on July 27th and encourage other EU governments to do likewise.

We also believe Ireland should increase support for the World Health Organisation’s extremely important CTAP and Covax initiatives. A TRIPS waiver is just one part of the solution to global vaccine access, but it is a vital first step, and one we should take in solidarity with the rest of the world. – Yours etc.

Senator ALICE-MARY

HIGGINS,

Senator FRANCES BLACK,

Senator LYNN BOYLAN,

Senator MALCOLM

BYRNE,

HOLLY CAIRNS TD,

JOAN COLLINS TD,

PATRICK COSTELLO TD,

Senator GERARD CRAUGHWELL,

DAVID CULLINANE TD,

MAIREAD FARRELL TD,

Senator EILEEN FLYNN,

GARY GANNON TD,

Senator PAUL GAVAN,

NEASA HOURIGAN TD,

GINO KENNY TD,

Senator VINCENT

P MARTIN,

PAUL MURPHY TD,

GED NASH TD,

Senator DAVID NORRIS,

CIAN O’CALLAGHAN TD,

MARC

Ó CATHASAIGH TD,

Senator PAULINE

O’REILLY,

AODHÁN Ó RIORDÁIN TD,

THOMAS PRINGLE TD,

Senator LYNN RUANE,

BRÍD SMITH TD,

Senator FINTAN

WARFIELD,

JENNIFER

WHITMORE TD,

Houses of the Oireachtas,

Leinster House,

Dublin 2.