French president Emmanuel Macron expressed his reservations about the White House proposal to waive the intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, and he also criticized the lack of exports coming from the US and UK, The Guardian and Financial Times reported Saturday.
“The Anglo-Saxons block many of these ingredients and vaccines…” he said, after arriving at an EU summit in Portugal. “Today, 100 percent of the vaccines produced in the United States are for the American market.”
Macron stated the controversy over property rights sparked by the US was a sideshow in comparison with current obstacles to the export of vaccines and the voluntary plans to share doses with poorer international countries, according to Financial Times.
“What is the current issue?” he asked. “It is not really about intellectual property. Can you give intellectual property to laboratories that do not know how to produce and will not produce tomorrow? The main issue for solidarity is the distribution of doses.”
The Guardian said neither the UK or the US has a formal export ban, but Washington has deployed the Defense Production Act to force manufacturers to fulfil domestic contracts ahead of other orders, while the British government’s contract with AstraZeneca also prioritizes UK requirements.
A waiver on vaccine patents would allow pharmaceutical companies to make copycat vaccines without fear of legal action by manufacturers, such as Pfizer and AstraZeneca.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in the short and medium term the IP waiver will not solve the problem.
“We invite all those who engage in the debate of waivers of IP rights also to join us to commit to export a large share of vaccines being produced in that region,” she added.
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, had already rejected the US idea, warning that “production capacities and high-quality standards, not the patents” is the problem facing the world and that a “waiver” would have “serious implications”, The Guardian reported.
“The protection of intellectual property is a source of innovation and it must remain so in the future,” she had said on Thursday.
Given that EU-based manufacturers have exported 200 million of doses while the White House has put a block on vaccines leaving its shores, there is growing frustration in Europe that the US is seeking to take the high ground.
In the meantime, China has already shipped out about 240 million doses, more than all other nations combined, and has committed to providing another 500 million, according to Airfinity, a science information and analytics company, Bloomberg reported.