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EU declines to back vaccine patent waiver in talks with India

THE European Union refused to support waiving vaccine patents in talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the weekend, despite pledging “support and solidarity” for the country as it grapples with a devastating new wave of Covid-19.

Coronavirus cases are still rising at record rates across India, with 403,738 new cases and 4,092 deaths reported today.

New Delhi says it has opened vaccination to all adults in the hope of controlling the surge — but the pace of inoculation has actually slowed, with many state governments saying they are running short. About 10 per cent of India’s 1.4 billion people have received one shot, and under 2.5 per cent have had their second jab.

At its peak in early April, India was administering a record high of 3.5 million shots a day on average. But this number has consistently shrunk since, reaching an average of 1.3 million shots a day over the past week. Between April 6 and May 6, daily doses dropped by 38 per cent, even as Covid cases have tripled and deaths have jumped sixfold, according to Bhramar Mukherjee, a biostatistician at the University of Michigan, who has been tracking India's epidemic.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said discussions about a time-limited patent waiver — which has been backed by US President Joe Biden – were “for the long term” and would not have the immediate impact of raising production and distribution by current manufacturers.

Charities including Doctors Without Borders and the World Health Organisation itself have said that a patent waiver would speed up vaccination across the developing world.

Mr Biden’s announcement of support last week prompted French and Russian presidents Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin to follow suit. As China already supported the move, this leaves Britain as the only country on the UN security council that does not.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel, leader of the EU’s biggest economy, sided with Big Pharma to oppose a vaccine waiver on Friday. A German government statement said “the protection of intellectual property is a source of innovation and must remain so.”

 

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