Brussels, 7 June 2021
European Commission trade policy proposals to the Covid-19 crisis in view of the upcoming G7 leaders summit are an important step in the right for access to vaccines. the Current imbalances in COVID vaccine supplies have largely resulted from government policies to restrict the shipment of vaccines by manufacturers, and by international bottlenecks in the supply chain for vaccine manufacturers. The first two proposals from the European Commission ensure that COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and their components can cross borders freely and encourage manufacturers to expand production, whilst ensuring that countries most in need of vaccines receive them at an affordable price..
The proposal, for use of compulsory licensing within the WTO's existing Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), sparks the EuropaBio position that governments should strongly collaborate with vaccine manufacturers and developers to expand production, including through licensing agreements, sharing of know-how and agreeing on pricing. ICBA members have already formed over 250 international partnerships to build manufacturing capacity to produce vaccines at the maximum possible rate consistent with safety, technological capacity, and raw-material supplies. The current estimate is that these existing efforts will result in 11 billion COVID vaccines being available in 2021 – and more in the first part of 2022. Any WTO process that would support the coerced transfer of technology will, create long and contentious global negotiation and exacerbate “vaccine nationalism,” worsening shortages in a vulnerable global supply chain.
“The global COVID-19 pandemic has shown the power of collaboration on the global scale. The biotechnology sector, working with governments and health care providers in all regions of the world has, shown its commitment to this unprecedented crisis. Let us build on the strong base of partnerships and work together to finish the job, ensuring vaccines are delivered to all’’, says Dr Claire Skentelbery, Director General of Europabio.
The COVAX Manufacturing Task Force is working to strengthen global supply chains in the near-term and expand global vaccine capacity in the longer term. All efforts should be made to accelerate this initiative.