The European Union is pushing back hard against U.S.-backed calls to temporarily waive intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines, preparing a rival plan that officials said would better safeguard drug companies’ patents and look for other ways to boost supplies for developing countries.
As the gap between vaccine haves and have nots has widened, Washington and China have endorsed a proposal by developing countries at the World Trade Organization to suspend patent protections for the immunizations.
Brussels’ alternative plan would lift export restrictions on vaccines and their raw materials, expand manufacturing capacity around the world, and make it easier for countries to use existing rules to override patents in some cases, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
The EU’s stance makes a quick deal on the waiver proposal less likely, and could sink it altogether, trade experts say.
EU officials said they would present the proposal at the WTO next week, when members are also set to debate the waiver. They argue that removing patents won’t do much to help increase production in the short term and would remove incentives for pharmaceutical companies to do further work, such as updating vaccines for virus mutations.