RCSI calls for TRIPS Waiver to provide equal access to COVID-19 vaccines

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) is calling on the Irish Government to support the TRIPS Waiver. This is to enable equality of access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

The call comes following RCSI Council’s endorsement of the waiver at its December meeting. RCSI is the first higher education institution, postgraduate training body in Ireland to support the call for the TRIPS Waiver. It would enable generic production of medicines in addition to providing low- and middle-income countries with access to COVID-19 vaccines. This is as well as other treatments.

TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) is a World Trade Organisation Agreement. They protect intellectual property, including patents on medicines produced by pharmaceutical companies.

The TRIPS Waiver was first proposed by India and South Africa in 2020. This was to temporarily remove intellectual property rights for health technologies needed to prevent, contain, or treat COVID-19. This was until vaccine equity could be achieved. Approximately 100 nations support the waiver. Although some states oppose this including EU member states.

What does RCSI think of the TRIPS waiver?

Dr Debbi Stanistreet, Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, RCSI spoke out. She said: “As it stands, 75% of those in high-income countries have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This is compared to only 7% in low-income countries. These countries have fragile health infrastructures and weak economies. They are unable to sustain the increased pressure caused by the pandemic. Other important areas such as HIV and malaria prevention have their resources diverted as a result”.

“There is an unprecedented health and human rights crisis taking place before our eyes. We need to provide a sustainable solution immediately. We need to remove the barriers that are fast reversing hard-won progress against poverty and poor health in low-income countries.”

Commenting on RCSI’s endorsement, Professor P. Ronan O’Connell, President of RCSI said: “As a dedicated health sciences institution, RCSI strongly supports the hundreds of scientists and medical professionals who are calling for the TRIPS Waiver. With its strong hosting relationship with global pharmaceutical companies and its seat on the UN Security Council, Ireland is well placed to help achieve the goal of equitable access to life-saving vaccines”.

“The only way to achieve equitable vaccine access is through a TRIPS Waiver. It paves the way for the global south to produce vaccines, take control of their own vaccination programmes and hasten the end of the pandemic worldwide. RCSI calls on the Irish Government to give its backing to this important initiative.”

Therefore RCSI is encouraging medical professionals and scientists to sign the mission statement to support the call for the TRIPS Waiver at the links below:

For medical professionals: https://www.amnesty.ie/real-solutions-for-vaccine-equity/

For scientists: https://globalhealth.ie/doctors-for-vaccine-equity/

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