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Irish coalition encourage sharing of Covid-19 vaccines technology in open letter to Taoiseach


February 24, 2021 • 3 min read

  • Open letter to Micheál Martin details moral and economic consequences of continued opposition to temporary, emergency measures being proposed by 100 countries at the WTO

  • Covid vaccine supply limits put all countries and populations at risk

Today, a coalition of Irish organisations, networks and Unions, wrote an open letter to Taoiseach Micheál Martin urgently requesting Ireland’s support for  proposals to allow Covid-19 vaccine technology be shared openly through an emergency waiver at the World Trade Organisation. This emergency waiver would allow more vaccines and treatments to be produced on a global scale.

The letter, coordinated by Oxfam Ireland and signed by Access to Medicine Ireland, ActionAid, Amnesty, Comlamh, Concern, Dóchas, Goal, the Irish Global Health Network, INMO, MSF and Trócaire, details how the EU’s current position threatens the prospects of ending the Covid-19 pandemic. Namely, by blocking the “Waiver from Certain Provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for the Prevention, Containment and Treatment of Covid-19” – that is supported by more than 100 nations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The current limits to global Covid-19 vaccine supplies could result in some countries having to wait until at least 2023 for mass immunisation, meaning all countries and populations are at greater risk of new variants developing which current Covid-19 vaccines may not remedy. The coalition warns that without united global action, the Covid-health crisis, and resulting economic fallout and disruption will continue to have grave effects here in Ireland and worldwide.

The Coalition stated that:

“Such global inequity is not only a catastrophic moral failure that will lead to needless suffering and loss of life. Ongoing outbreaks anywhere mean greater risk of new variants developing against which vaccines are not effective and/or that can evade the antibodies developed by survivors. There simply is no way to defeat Covid-19 in Ireland without united action worldwide.”

“Ireland has a well-deserved reputation of supporting the human rights of the world’s poorest people. We are respected for our constructive engagement, acknowledging the importance of collective efforts amongst states for the problems that pay no heed to borders, such as the coronavirus pandemic. With so many of the world’s poorer nations supporting this emergency waiver already, you can help maintain Ireland’s moral and public health leadership in the world by siding with the majority to prioritise saving lives. Indeed, not doing so is self-defeating, as it is clear that the sooner the world’s population is vaccinated, the sooner EU citizens are safe.

“Thus, we respectfully request that you break with the unconscionable policies the EU has supported before the next WTO General Council meeting of March 1-2 and announce that Ireland will no longer support opposition to the temporary, emergency Covid-19 WTO waiver of certain TRIPS provisions.”

Note to the Editor

  • Read the Open Letter in full here
  • The letter was coordinated by Oxfam Ireland and signed by Access to Medicine Ireland (Comhlámh), ActionAid, Amnesty, Concern, Dóchas, Goal, the Irish Global Health Network, INMO, MSF and Trócaire
  • The letter has also been sent to Tánaiste Leo Varadkar; Minister Eamon Ryan; Minister Simon Coveney; Minister Stephen Donnelly; Minister Thomas Byrne; Dr Tony Holohan, CMO; Ruairí De Búrca, Director Irish Aid.
  • The WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) requires WTO members to provide lengthy monopoly protections for medicines, tests and the technologies used to produce them. After a global campaign by public health and development groups, in 2001 the WTO issued a binding declaration about better balancing TRIPS intellectual property protections and public health needs. A temporary emergency Covid-19 waiver is in line with the WTO members’ agreement that intellectual property rules cannot create barriers to health treatments for diseases that unnecessarily cost human lives and undermine the global economy.