On 1 February 2021, Spanish Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Mónica Silvana González of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“There is a global problem with shortages of COVID-19 vaccines and manufacturing capacity and a disconnect between the objectives and financing of the COVAX facility.
Pfizer and AstraZeneca are manifestly not capable of manufacturing the number of doses to which they have committed in Europe and the rest of the world. Nevertheless, according to the published contracts, the Commission and the Member States can require laboratories (CMOs) to manufacture doses that increase available manufacturing capacity, promoting contracts between developers and manufacturers.
Ahead of the forthcoming TRIPS Council meeting in March, a debate is taking place surrounding the need to prevent barriers to accessing vaccines, to scale up their development and manufacture, and to promote the transfer of technology – as advocated by India and South Africa – through a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights or by making certain obligations, such as compulsory licences, more flexible.
1. Can the Commission push for agreements between laboratories in Europe and CMOs in developing countries in order to increase global manufacturing capacity and reduce the delays in global vaccination?
2. Are technology transfer measures being considered to promote the development of new vaccines?
3. Given the initiative to promote consensus taken by Australia, Canada, Chile and Mexico at the WTO, what role will the Commission play as a lead actor to bring positions closer together?”
On 5 May 2021, Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis, responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “The Commission supports global vaccine initiatives and the EU contributes to delivering vaccines to its partners, notably through COVAX, for which Team Europe is one of the lead contributors with a donation of EUR 2.47 billion.
Existing manufacturing capacities limit the number of vaccine doses available globally. The Commission has set up a Task Force for Industrial Scale-up of COVID-19 vaccines to detect and help respond to issues in real-time. It will also support manufacturing efforts and the enabling environment in partner countries through the next multi-annual financial framework, including the European Fund for Sustainable Development. Increasing vaccine production capacities may be best addressed through enhanced cooperation with the pharmaceutical industry. The development of new vaccines globally requires an effective enabling environment, where public-private cooperation could bring solutions to the current bottleneck.
The EU is committed to an open and comprehensive dialogue with all World Trade Organization (WTO) Members to explore how the multilateral rules-based trading system can best support universal and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. The EU is ready to discuss with WTO Members vaccine production and the use of the flexibilities under the Agreement on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, and fully supports an evidence-based discussion. During the last General Council meeting on 2 March 2021, the EU called on WTO Members to work with the WTO Director General to ramp up global production of vaccines by promoting the cooperation between COVID-19 vaccine producers and pharmaceutical companies with spare production capacities.”
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