Universal and equitable access to safe, effective and affordable vaccines, diagnostics and treatments is crucial in the global fight against COVID-19.
International Trade is a competence of the EU under the Treaties and in exercising that competence, the European Commission engages fully with the Member States, including Ireland, through a variety of Committees and Working Parties/Groups, including on Intellectual Property.
As regards the broad waiver proposed by a number of WTO Members, on 4 June, the EU submitted a proposal to the WTO General Council, which proposed that WTO Members could agree on a global trade initiative for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics encompassing the three components of (i) trade facilitation and disciplines on export restrictions; (ii) concrete actions to expand production and ensure supply of vaccines at affordable prices to low and middle income countries during the pandemic and (iii) clarification and facilitation of TRIPS Agreement flexibilities relating to compulsory licences.
The EU has also submitted a Declaration to the TRIPS Council to assist the next phase of discussions with a view to trying to reach agreement with all Members of the WTO on how to achieve the shared goal of expanding production and facilitating equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics for all.
The EU continues to be committed to an open and comprehensive dialogue with all WTO members to explore how the multilateral rules-based trading system can best support universal and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, and to continue ramping up production, to share COVID-19 vaccines and medicines more widely and faster and to ensure equitable access to these products for low and middle-income countries.
Ireland will engage with the European Commission and other member states on the EU position for the WTO discussions including discussions on how the flexibilities within the TRIPS Agreement can contribute towards increasing the manufacturing capacity and the equitable access to vaccines around the world.
The EU considers that the COVAX Facility, the international initiative to ensure global access to COVID vaccines, is the mechanism that is best placed to ensure that high-income countries finance the vaccines and support the developing countries to secure their share of global supply.
Reports from the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) suggest that by January 2022, there will be sufficient vaccines produced for every adult on every continent. In addition, by the end of the year, manufacturers of the COVID-19 vaccine are expected to produce 12 billion doses and by mid next-year, there could be a vaccine surplus.
Ireland has consistently championed collaborative responses to the pandemic, with a focus on ensuring that the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable are served by our collective effort. As a member of the global health community, Ireland continues to play an active role in ensuring fair and equitable access to vaccines for all. This includes supporting the World Health Organization (WHO), the Global Vaccine Alliance and the Global Fund, to develop, produce and equitably distribute effective technologies in the COVID-19 global response.
The lead responsibility for both Intellectual Property and Trade lies with my Department. My officials maintain contact with other Departments, including the Department for Foreign Affairs, on this matter, as appropriate.