Universal and equitable access to safe, effective and affordable vaccines, diagnostics and treatments is crucial in the global fight against COVID-19.
My colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, leads on trade and World Trade Organisation matters (WTO), including on the current discussion on the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.
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.
The EU proposed an alternative to the TRIPS waiver that relates to the use of the flexibilities in the TRIPS Agreement. The proposal is targeted and pragmatic and aims at ensuring that governments can resort to compulsory licences, including to export to countries with no or limited manufacturing capacities, in the most effective manner adapted to the circumstances of a pandemic.
The EU is of the view that there is no single solution and that a multi-pronged approach is needed and that discussions should concentrate on how the Intellectual Property system can contribute towards increasing the manufacturing capacity and the equitable access to vaccines around the world.
Despite the postponement of the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, WTO members will continue to engage in a solution-oriented manner to find an outcome on how the WTO can contribute to an effective response to any pandemic, not just the current one.
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 global production of vaccines is increasing rapidly and it is estimated that 12 billion doses of COVID vaccines will be produced by the end of 2021. The EU considers the COVAX facility as the mechanism best placed to ensure equitable access to the global supply of vaccines for low, middle, and high income countries.
Team Europe has committed to donate 700 million doses of vaccines to low and middle income countries by mid-2022, of which 250 million should be delivered by the end of this year. In addition the EU is investing €1billion to ramp up vaccine production capacity in Africa.
Ireland has contributed €8.5million in funding to COVAX in 2021 and is donating 1.3 million vaccines to low and middle income countries via the COVAX facility. Further donations via the facility are expected.