Covid-19 roundup: EU calls on WTO members to expand vaccine and treatment manufacturing; US removes DPA priority ratings for AstraZeneca, J&J and Sanofi
The EU isn’t backing the US in its push to temporarily waive IP protections around Covid-19 vaccines, but on Friday, the EU submitted a new proposal to World Trade Organization members, seeking to limit the use of export restrictions and keep supply chains open.
“Vaccine-producing countries should be ready to export a fair share of their domestic production,” the European Commission said in a statement. “Supply chains are highly interconnected and should not be disrupted.”
The EU is also now encouraging vaccine manufacturers and developers to expand production and ensure the affordable supply of vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.
“Such actions could include licensing agreements, the sharing of expertise, tiered pricing including non-profit sales to low-income countries, contract manufacturing and new investments in manufacturing facilities in developing countries,” the EU said. The push comes as BioNTech and Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna have committed to delivering 1.3 billion doses this year to low-income countries at no profit and to middle-income countries at a lower cost.
But some closely following the new developments weren’t impressed by the EU’s comments.
The EU’s counter proposal to the TRIPS waiver is straight out of a used car salesman’s book of tricks – full of false and misleading advertising, selling you something that is no better than what you already have (under the existing TRIPS Agreement). https://t.co/RlyLMh48yL
— Tahir Amin (@realtahiramin) June 4, 2021
The EU also said that it’s tabling a dedicated communication on intellectual property to the WTO body in charge of implementing the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Council). “As regards the broad waiver proposed by a number of WTO members, the European Commission, while ready to discuss any option that helps end the pandemic as soon as possible, is not convinced that this would provide the best immediate response to reach the objective of the widest and timely distribution of COVID-19 vaccines that the world urgently needs,” the EU added.
US finally begins shipping donated vaccine doses around the world, DPA priority ratings lifted for AstraZeneca, J&J and Sanofi
On Thursday, the US unveiled its strategy for shipping 25 million J&J, Pfizer and Moderna vaccine doses by the end of the month, and less than 24 hours later, the State Department spokesman tweeted out photos of the first shipment of 1 million doses of the J&J vaccine to South Korea.
One million J&J vaccines are headed to our partners in the Republic of Korea. With these doses we’re ensuring the safety and readiness of ROK and U.S. forces. The friendship between our two countries runs deep, especially in times of great need. pic.twitter.com/c3ZLLa0eex
— Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) June 4, 2021
About 6 million doses will go to “regional priorities and partner recipients,” including Mexico, Canada, and the Republic of Korea, West Bank and Gaza, Ukraine, Kosovo, Haiti, Georgia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Yemen, and UN frontline workers, while nearly 19 million doses will be shared through COVAX, with the following allocations:
- About 6 million for South and Central America, including to: Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Haiti, and other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, as well as the Dominican Republic.
- About 7 million for Asia to the following countries: India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, and the Pacific Islands.
- About 5 million for Africa, in coordination with the African Union
In total, the Biden administration says it’s planning to ship at least 80 million US vaccine doses globally. But of that 80 million, 60 million AstraZeneca doses are still awaiting an FDA OK to be shipped because they were produced at the troubled Emergent BioSolutions plant in Baltimore.
Meanwhile, the US also removed the Defense Production Act priority ratings for AstraZeneca, Novavax, and Sanofi.
“While the manufacturers will continue to make these three vaccines, this action will allow U.S.-based companies that supply these vaccine manufacturers to make their own decisions on which orders to fulfill first,” Jeff Zients, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, said at a press conference on Thursday.
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