EU leaders ramp up criticism of US decision to waive Covid vaccine patents

8 May 2021, 15:22

Emmanuel Macron (R) has called on the US to distribute more Covid jabs abroad
Emmanuel Macron (R) has called on the US to distribute more Covid jabs abroad. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

European Union leaders have ramped up their criticism of the US for its decision to waive Covid-19 vaccine patents.

Brussels chiefs argued the move would not be "the magic bullet" the Biden administration is hoping for, adding it would bring no short or mid-term relief.

They have instead urged the US president to lift export restrictions in order to help curb the global coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking on the second day of an EU summit in Portugal, the bloc's council president Charles Michel said: "We don't think, in the short term, that it's the magic bullet."

French President Emmanuel Macron stressed that prioritising a discussion on intellectual property rights would be "a false debate".

The comments followed up previous EU calls for Joe Biden to begin boosting US vaccine exports to help prevent the spread of the virus.

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"We encourage all the partners to facilitate the export of (vaccine) doses," Mr Michel said, who insisted that is the most urgent need.

The EU has become the world's leading provider of Covid vaccines, whereas the US has focused more on inoculating its own population first.

Brussels has sent roughly as many shots outside the 27-nation bloc as it has kept within it for its population of 446 million people.

The EU has distributed about 200 million doses within its borders, while about the same amount has been exported abroad to almost 90 countries.

"First of all, you must open up," Mr Macron said, adding that "the Anglo Saxons must stop their bans on exports".

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"In the United States, in the United Kingdom, 100 per cent of what has been produced has been used in the domestic market."

The EU is trying to regain the diplomatic initiative on vaccines after Mr Biden took the bloc by surprise with his unexpected endorsement of lifting patent protections on Covid-19 vaccines.

He had hoped it would solve the problem of getting jabs to people in poorer countries.

Mr Macron and other EU leaders have insisted that production capacity must first be ramped up by, among other things, reconverting factories so they can quickly start producing vaccines through a transfer of technology.

Developed nations should also increase vaccine donations to poorer countries, according to the bloc.

Only after that, Mr Macron said, can the debate on patent waivers start having an impact.

"Today, there is not a factory in the world that cannot produce doses for poor countries because of a patent issue," he added.