Seanad passes motion on waiver of vaccine intellectual property rights

Seanad passes motion on waiver of vaccine intellectual property rights

THE SEANAD has passed a motion to call on the government to support a TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver on Covid-19 vaccine technology.

The motion was brought forward by Independent Senator Alice-Mary Higgins on Wednesday, and was seconded by Senator Lynn Ruane, and co-sponsored by several others.

Fianna Fáil's Malcolm Byrne and the Green Party's Róisín Garvey indicated they would not support a government counter-motion on the issue, leading to its withdrawal.

The World Trade Organisation's TRIPS agreement was agreed by members in 2001, and it stressed the need for wider national and international action to address public health problems afflicting developing countries and least-developed countries.

Speaking after the Seanad debate, Senator Higgins said public health needs to be prioritised over profit during the pandemic.

"The World Health Organization, the United Nations, doctors, nurses, academics and civil society across the world have all made it crystal clear that we need a TRIPS waiver as a first step in the scaling up of global manufacturing and access to vaccines.

"Over 100 countries are supporting such a waiver in World Trade Organisation negotiations and just a handful of countries including those represented by the European Commission have consistently blocked the waiver."

"The motion from the Seanad tonight sends a clear message that we want the Irish Government to join other governments like Italy and Portugal in taking a stand in support of a TRIPS waiver and publicly calling on the European Commission to change position and allow for earlier and urgent scaling up of global supply of life saving vaccines," she said.

Vaccine and medical equity have been a topic of conversation in recent weeks, particularly when several countries closed their borders to countries in southern Africa where the Omicron variant of Covid-19 was first detected.

There are currently over 100 countries supporting the TRIPS waiver on Covid-19 vaccines, including the United States. It was planned to be discussed during a World Trade Organisation meeting, but was cancelled last minute due to the Omicron variant.