EU open to discuss suspension of patents on covid-19 vaccines

NGOs call on Brussels and other world powers to emulate Joe Biden's government

2 min
The President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen.

BarcelonaThe president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said on Thursday that she was open to discussing a possible suspension of patents on vaccines against covid-19, after yesterday's decision by Joe Biden's government in the United States to suspend patents on vaccines against covid-19 announced its support for this proposal, led by India and South Africa, within led by India and South Africa within the World Trade Organization (WTO).

"The EU is ready to discuss any proposal to address the crisis in an effective and pragmatic way. That is why we are ready to discuss how the US proposal for an exemption from intellectual property protections for covid-19 vaccines can help achieve this goal", Von der Leyen said on Thursday morning during a speech at the European University Institute in Florence.

Biden's decision, announced on Wednesday night by the US ambassador to the WTO, Katherine Tai, has forced the European Union to move from its position, which until now within the WTO has been reluctant to suspend patents. In fact, the European Parliament formally rejected this proposal in a vote on 27 April, in a resolution by the left-wing parties that called for the suspension of patents on covid-19 vaccines, which received 153 votes in favour and 454 votes against.

The PSOE voted at the time against the suspension of vaccines, but then Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez defended the proposal during the last debate in Parliament on the state of alarm. This Thursday, Vice President Carmen Calvo has also given support and many socialist voices have joined her via Twitter.

Applause for Biden

The United States's move has been received on Thursday with joy by humanitarian organizations and NGOs that had defended the need to suspend patents. "The US has taken a bold step for global solidarity by supporting the suspension of patents for covid-19 vaccines. The Biden administration is putting the lives of people around the world ahead of the profits of a few pharmaceutical giants and their shareholders. Now, others like the EU or the UK have to do the same. Only by sharing knowledge and technology can vaccine production be accelerated. The only way to end the pandemic is to do it globally", Amnesty International said on Twitter this morning.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) also applauded Biden's "courageous" decision because it will give poorer countries access to the medical tools they need to stop the global pandemic. "Many of the low-income countries where MSF works have only received 0.3% of the global supply of coronavirus vaccines, while the United States has obtained enough doses to protect its entire population and still has more than 500 million vaccine left over", the NGO said in a statement.