GENEVA (AP) — European leaders voiced increasing skepticism Friday that a U.S. proposal to lift patent protections on COVID-19 vaccines would solve the problem of getting shots into the arms of people in poorer countries, with some instead calling for more exports of the doses already being produced.
While activists and humanitarian groups have cheered the Biden administration’s decision and urged others to follow suit, European Union leaders are hammering home the message that any benefit from a temporary waiver of intellectual property protections would be long in coming. Instead, they’ve taken the U.S., in particular, to task for not sharing more vaccines with the rest of the world.
“You can give the intellectual property to laboratories that do not know how to produce it. They won’t produce it tomorrow,” said French President Emmanuel Macron at a summit in Portugal, even though he has also said he would agree to waive the protections.
EU officials insist rewriting rules in the World Trade Organization could take months or even a year, and say they’ve found few examples — if any — that intellectual property issues are what’s holding up the rollout of vaccines.
Supporters of a patent waiver have argued it would allow more factories around the world to produce the shots, increasing the supply, especially in poorer countries. The decision ultimately is up to the 164-member WTO, and if just one country votes against a waiver, the idea will fail.
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