I propose to take Questions Nos. 86, 131, 153 and 159 together.
Universal and equitable access to vaccines is crucial in the global fight against Covid-19 and governments in the developed world must do more to ensure it happens. The Government is a very strong supporter of vaccine equality in the world. Morally, we need to make sure the world is vaccinated. We were not able to defeat smallpox and polio on a national basis; it could only be done on an international basis. This is what we need to do with Covid as well. Any country with a population that is not fully vaccinated is a potential reservoir for reinfection. It is the right thing to do morally and also from the point of view of self-interest.
As the Deputy is aware, international trade is a competence of the European Union under the treaties and, in exercising that competence, the European Commission engages fully with member states, including Ireland, through a variety of committees, working parties and groups, including on intellectual property. As part of the EU, we are very strong advocates of what is called compulsory licensing. This would allow governments to license the production of vaccines on a generic basis, whether the pharmaceutical companies agree to it or not. It could be very useful for countries like South Africa and India, which have vaccine-making capacity, to be allowed to license the production of the vaccines in the plants in their countries, irrespective of whether the companies approve. That is what we, as part of the European Union, are supporting and advocating at present.
I have an open mind on the alternative suggestion of a TRIPS waiver. I have always said that if we receive a WTO proposal, we will examine it. That has not happened yet. The TRIPS waiver, just like compulsory licensing, will not result in any new vaccine plants being built or made operational, which means it will not be enough on its own. What is needed is a comprehensive response involving capacity-building, know-how, qualified scientists and technicians, capital, and experienced medicine and safety regulators. All those elements are needed to get vaccines from the laboratory into people's arms. That is why it is better to have governments and pharmaceutical companies working together to find a solution rather than trying to create conflicts between government and industry. I do not think that is the right approach. We need a global solution that is comprehensive, intelligent and workable and that does not disincentivise innovation.
To date, Ireland has contributed €7 million in funding to COVAX in 2021 and will donate 1.3 million vaccines this year to low-income countries as part of that programme, with more to come in 2022. The first 500,000 Irish doses donated through the facility reached Nigeria on 29 November, with further donations of Irish vaccines taking place in the coming weeks. In addition, Ireland has delivered on its commitment to donate 335,000 doses to Uganda. The Irish people have shown enormous generosity in donating through UNICEF's Get a Vaccine, Give a Vaccine programme, which I strongly support and endorse. The EU has committed 200 million doses to reach low and middle-income countries by the end of this year, mainly through the COVAX initiative, and is investing €1 billion to ramp up mRNA production capacity in Africa. As a Government, we have consistently opposed the export bans advocated by others, including some of those now advocating a TRIPS waiver.