The European Committee of the Regions has called on
the European Union to temporarily waive patents for
vaccines against the COVID-19 virus, in order to
curb the rapid spread of the pandemic. It also
pressed for production in Europe to be increased
and for an acceleration in the vaccination campaign
The Committee – the EU's assembly of local and regional
governments – is the first EU institution to call for a
waiver. A recent upsurge in infections in other
continents has added to pressure for
intellectual-property rights to be suspended in the
interests of maximising the production of vaccines and
ensuring equitable access to them.
President of the European Committee of the Regions and
Governor of Central Macedonia, said: "Basic health care
is a fundamental human right, and this is the most
fundamental threat to global health in generations.
There is no place for vaccine nationalism, and the
European Union must continue to lead by example,
protecting all its citizens, leaving no region, city or
territory behind. Backed by EU funds, scientists,
industry and regulators have done an outstanding job in
finding effective treatments so swiftly. The European
Union must show it is true to solidarity and its
values, ensuring a temporary waiver on patents of
COVID-19 vaccines and increasing vaccine production to
help every community in the world."
(ES/PES), President of the Regional Government of
Valencia, led the call for patents to be suspended.
Speaking at the CoR's plenary session, he said: "The
pandemic is not over yet. It has already killed more
people than the battles of Verdun and Stalingrad. To
end it, we will need billions of vaccines a year for
the entire world population. That is why Europe must
ensure that the big pharmaceutical companies meet their
delivery commitments. We need greater vaccine
manufacturing and delivery capacity. To this end, I put
forward options such as the temporary suspension of
patents, the financial compensation of laboratories if
the compulsory licensing formula is chosen, or the need
for inter-company cooperation to increase production.
We can no longer reverse what happened in the past on
the battlefields of Stalingrad or Verdun, but there is
still time to alleviate this human tragedy."
The proposal is set out in a resolution –
'on free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic
(Digital Green Certificate) and the scaling up
of vaccine production'
– that was debated on 6 May, with the final vote to be
announced on 7 May. However, the paragraph containing
the request that "in order to increase vaccine
production, the European Union could explore new
solutions such as a temporary suspension of patents for
medicines and medical technologies to treat or prevent
COVID-19 infections" was not subject to amendment by
any group or member of the Committee.
The United States said on 5 May that it would start
negotiations at the World Trade Organization to loosen
rules on patents enjoyed by pharmaceutical companies.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European
Commission, said on 6 May that the European Union is
"ready to discuss any proposals that address the crisis
in an effective and pragmatic manner".
commissioned by the European Committee of the Regions
found last September that Europeans trust regional and
local authorities more than they trust the EU or their
national government, and that health is the area where
Europeans would most like to see regional and local
authorities to have more influence on decisions taken
at the EU level.
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