Professor Aisling McMahon was invited to attend a meeting of the Joint Committee of Enterprise Trade and Employment on 11th May to discuss the waiver of intellectual property protection in the context of the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights as it relates to Covid-19 vaccines.
Professor McMahon appeared before the committee alongside Jim Clarken (CEO Oxfam Ireland), Dimitri Eynikel (Access Campaign EU Policy Advisor, Médecins Sans Frontières), Dr Christine Kelly (Consultant in Infectious Diseases at St Vincent's University Hospital Dublin), Oliver O’Connor (CEO of the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association) and Matt Moran (Director of BioPharmaChem Ireland).
The TRIPS waiver was proposed by India and South Africa in October 2020, and is supported by over 100 States globally. It proposes to temporarily suspend intellectual property rights under the TRIPS Agreement for COVID-19 health-technologies, including vaccines, medicines and diagnostics.
In her opening statement to the Committee, Professor McMahon outlined the role and scope of the originally proposed TRIPS waiver. She argued that a waiver of this nature is a key step to clear intellectual property hurdles to enable the radical upscaling of capacity for COVID-19 vaccines in low and middle-income countries to ameliorate global vaccine inequity. Professor McMahon also discussed the recently proposed QUAD outcome text highlighting how this differs from the original TRIPS waiver proposal, and why, in her view, in its current form, this QUAD outcome text does not offer a useful pathway to ameliorate vaccine inequity. Her statement concluded by urging the committee to encourage the Irish government to advocate at an EU level and internationally, for the need to support the adoption of a waiver text in WTO negotiations that would closely align with the original TRIPS waiver proposal by India and South Africa.