The EU is working with African countries toward a deal to improve access to coronavirus vaccines, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday.
Addressing the European Parliament, Macron said leaders aimed to present a deal at the EU-African Union summit next month. He said he hoped that EU leaders would agree to a global license for coronavirus vaccines, clearing the barriers to gaining the capacity, intellectual property and technology Africa needs to manufacture its own vaccines.
The EU is working with African countries to create a number of vaccine production sites on the Continent. Yet, until now, the bloc has pushed back against calls from developing countries to waive the intellectual property rights to coronavirus vaccines held by leading drugmakers. Germany’s BioNTech developed one of the world’s leading coronavirus vaccines.
Campaigners for vaccine access argue that IP rights are an obstacle to wider vaccination in the developing world. Only 10 percent of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated, compared with 70 percent in the EU.
Macron said the global license proposal under discussion is in line with requests made by the leaders of both the World Trade Organization and the World Health Organization, the Geneva-based multilateral groups where debate over IP waivers has dragged on for much of the pandemic.
Macron also defended the EU’s track record on vaccine exports, saying that the bloc had shipped abroad half of all the 2.5 billion doses produced within it. The French President said that unlike the U.S., the EU had not imposed export bans on vaccine ingredients or doses.
In fact, the Commission did put in place a mechanism that would allow for export of doses to be blocked, and used it on one shipment of 250,000 Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine doses originally destined for Australia. At the time, officials from third countries also claimed that the Commission informally pressured vaccine makers to not export doses, without having to officially activate the mechanism.