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Mock funeral procession at Dáil to protest Irish stance on Covid vaccine patents

admin | November 29, 2021
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Campaigners will stage a mock funeral procession outside the Dáil on Tuesday to protest the Irish Government’s stance on a waiver for Covid-19 vaccine patents.

A temporary waiver on intellectual property (IP) rights on Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, supported by more than 100 countries, is set to be discussed at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) TRIPS Council this week.

This “TRIPS waiver” would allow states to bypass the monopoly of IP holders to temporarily authorise the production of patented vaccines, without the consent of the pharmaceutical companies holding the patent.

After initially opposing the waiver, the European Union has tabled a counter-proposal to use flexibilities in existing WTO rules.

The People’s Vaccine Alliance Ireland will stage a demonstration at Leinster House tomorrow at lunchtime “to protest the Irish Government’s support for [the] EU’s efforts to block measures to temporarily waive intellectual property rules for Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments.”

Those in attendance will include representatives from Oxfam Ireland, Amnesty International Ireland, Trocaire Doctors for Vaccine Equity and Access to Medicines Ireland.

Mock funeral Members of the alliance will form a funeral-style guard of honour either side of the Kildare Street entrance to Leinster House, through which Oireachtas members will have to pass.

“Bells will be tolled every four seconds, signifying someone dying from Covid-19 every four seconds… minute-long silences will be observed, with only the bell ringing, to honour those across the world who have died from Covid-19 but might have been saved with timely provision of vaccines,” a statement from the alliance said.

The group said debate over the TRIPS waiver has taken on an added urgency due to the discovery of the Omicron coronavirus variant, citing warnings from scientists that new variants will continue to arise as long as global vaccine inequity is allowed to continue.

Speaking ahead of the protest, CEO of Oxfam Ireland Jim Clarken said: “These crucial discussions [on the TRIPS waiver] will be taking place over the coming days and we want the Irish Government to know that their actions are being watched.

“We will be sending a message that their actions will have deadly consequences if they continue to support the EU stance to continue to block the temporary waiving of intellectual property rights for life-saving products for those left behind.”

The TRIPS waiver was first proposed by India and South Africa – two countries with robust generic pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity – in October 2020 to address the availability of vaccines and therapeutic treatments, but was initially opposed by countries including European Union nations and the United States.

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The US has since voiced support for a waiver covering vaccines only, maintaining IP protection on other products such as treatments. US President Joe Biden reiterated his belief in the waiver for vaccines on Monday, saying news of the Omicron variant raised the importance of moving quickly.

Medecins Sans Frontieres on Monday said that the world could not waste more time, with millions of lives at stake.

“We call on countries opposing and diluting this waiver to today halt the stalling tactics and take urgent measures to adopt a comprehensive waiver,” it said.

-Additional reporting by Reuters.

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