EU Parliament extends support to India, South Africa's Covid vaccine patent waiver

New Delhi, IndiaWritten By: Sidhant SibalUpdated: May 22, 2021, 07:53 AM IST

Vials labelled "AstraZeneca, Pfizer - Biontech, Johnson&Johnson, Sputnik V coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine" are seen in this illustration Photograph:(Reuters)

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In October 2020, India and South Africa had jointly initiated the proposal at WTO but had met with resistance from the west

In a move that will be widely welcomed, the European Parliament has decided to extend support to India-South Africa's joint proposal for Covid vaccine patent waiver that will help in large-scale production of the vaccines.

Para 14 of the resolution called on "EU to set up a clear and coherent EU global COVID-19 vaccination strategy" and therefore "to support the Indian and South African World Trade Organization initiative for a temporary waiver on intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, equipment, and treatments" while urging "pharmaceutical companies to share their knowledge and data through the World Health Organization COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP)".

The support comes via a very circuitous route, with the specific paragraph being mentioned on a resolution on AIDS. The resolution “accelerating progress and tackling inequalities towards ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030" saw 468 votes in favour, 63 against, and 162 abstentions.

In October 2020, India and South Africa had jointly initiated the proposal at WTO but had met with resistance from the west. The tide started to turn, with US President Biden extending support to the proposal. In March of this year, a group of Members of European Parliament or MEPs and EU national parliamentarians called on the EU Commission to drop its opposition to the waiver.

The matter also came up at the May 8 India-EU leadership summit with Indian PM Narendra Modi urging European Union leadership to support the wavier. "I think it is very important. We should be open to this discussion", the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen said after the summit. The session of the European Parliament between June 7-10 will see a discussion on waiver of COVID-19 vaccine patents.

India and the EU are major centres of vaccine production. Before the second wave of the Covid pandemic hit, India had exported vaccines to over 90 countries. The European Union, which has produced 400 million doses of vaccines, has exported half of its stockpile of 200 million to 90 countries.