EU Ambassador Says Europe Supports COVAX, Not TRIPS Waiver
EU Ambassador to the African Union, Birgitte Markussen.

Although the European Union (EU) is opposed to the proposal by South Africa and India urging the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to waive intellectual property (IP) rights on COVID-19 products for the duration of the pandemic, the EU will support the expansion of vaccine access in Africa.

This is according to the EU Ambassador to the African Union, Birgitte Markussen, who told a recent AU media briefing that the EU is putting its full weight behind the COVAX Facility to ensure that African countries are able to vaccines, rather than supporting the waiver proposal. 

“The universal and equitable access to safe and effective diagnosis, treatments and vaccines, is the crucial issue for us. The whole issue of intellectual property rights does not really stand in the way for the efforts. It’s rather part of the solution,” Markussen said.

WTO ‘Flexible Enough’ Without Waiver

“I know that there are many issues related to the transfer of technology and so on, and the WTO rules are already flexible enough to address the problems. So it’s not that we are against it, we just think that the solution is already there,” she said.

Markussen said there were provisions in the licensing of vaccine technology and know-how, including the granting of compulsory licenses without the patent owner’s consent, that can be fast-tracked in emergencies, such as the pandemic.

Together with the Africa Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the EU has been involved in multilateral responses to control the spread of COVID-19 in Africa, but acknowledged that there needed to be more fostering of solidarity and cooperation to tackle the threats that both Europe and Africa are facing.

Markussen also told Health Policy Watch that the EU supports calls by France and Germany for  European countries to donate substantial doses of their COVID-19 vaccines to African countries.

However, she said there is no date yet for when the donation exercise will begin although  measures are already in place to coordinate it.

“We have a mechanism whereby our member states can redistribute these types of vaccines and that’s an additional instrument to the COVAX Facility,” she told Health Policy Watch

Africa CDC Wants Continent to Produce COVID Vaccine

Meanwhile, Africa CDC Director John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC, said the center  is keen on ensuring that African institutions including the Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Senegal are capable of producing COVID-19 vaccines to ensure that African countries are able to have quick access to the vaccines especially when additional doses are needed.

“It is so important for us as a continent to have that because we truly don’t know how these vaccines will perform in terms of the longevity of immunity,” said Nkengasong. “So if it happens that immunity wanes after two years or so, then it means you need regular additional vaccination or boosting, and that will require that we have a continental capacity so I’m really really hoping there will be the right partnerships, and then see how we can roll that across the continent,” he said.

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