Ireland must support the waiving of patents on Covid-19 vaccines

28 April 2021

Labour TD Duncan Smith has written to the Taoiseach urging Ireland to support the TRIPSwaiver proposal currently at the WTO to waive the patent on Covid-19 vaccines. In the letter, Deputy Smith highlighted the urgent need to ensure greater equity in access to vaccines and medical equipment for countries that need it.

Deputy Smith said:

“In recent weeks we have seen the desperate situation in India with huge rates of mortality. One thing that the virus has taught us all is that it does not discriminate. Therefore no one is protected until everyone is protected. I am urging the Taoiseach to support greater equality of access to vaccines and equipment for countries that need it.

“The TRIPSwaiver proposal at the WTO seeks to give countries that need access on a greater scale to COVID-19 vaccinations and for vital healthcare equipment to fight the ongoing pandemic which continues to wage havoc around the globe. Ireland must stand for humanitarian principles and international solidarity with all countries affected by this pandemic.

“While vaccination rates in the EU have improved in recent weeks many parts of the world are being left behind. The nature of the pandemic will not allow for a return to normal life if there is a North-South global divide on access to vaccines and healthcare equipment. Ireland is a member of the UN Security Council, and a strong member of the European Union, we must do our utmost to ensure struggling people across the globe are not limited in their access to vaccines and healthcare due to where they live or how much value someone in the EU and North America place on their lives.

“I echo the calls from former President Mary Robinson when she called for political pressure to push calls for a TRIPSwaiver. This type of waiver on trade and intellectual property rights happened when the world was dealing with the HIV epidemic and should be implemented again now. Ireland cannot be party to a race to the bottom on vaccines and must act to encourage more EU member states and global allies to support the proposal.

“This proposal has wider implications for the coming years for Ireland and the rest of the world. If we cannot increase vaccinations globally on the same scale as developed countries, then we will have to continue to live with COVID-19 as a real threat with the required restrictions. Workers in Ireland in sectors that have been closed for the duration of the pandemic will not see normal resumption. We will be unable to ease restrictions to pre-pandemic levels until we see rates of COVID-19 severely decrease globally. We cannot be European Isolationists; we must act now to prevent further loss of life and to protect not only Ireland but all countries from COVID19.”

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