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Departments discussing WHO Covid-19 Technology Access Pool

Government departments are still discussing Ireland’s relationship with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO)  Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP).

The international pool aims to make the health technology, intellectual property and data behind Covid-19 treatments and vaccines as accessible as possible.

In October the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) told the Medical Independent (MI) that Ireland “welcomed” C-TAP and that “consultations are ongoing” across departments and with industry.

The DFA said it  looked “forward to receiving additional information on the …pool with a view to considering practical engagement.”

It added that the European Commission was in discussion on behalf of member states with the WHO.

This month (December) a spokesperson for the DFA said that this remains the case and no further decision has been made regarding C-TAP.

Pharmaceutical companies making recent breakthroughs on Covid-19 vaccines have been urged to share their information regarding their vaccines with C-TAP.

The Access to Medicines Ireland (AMI) group welcomed the “exciting news of  promising vaccine against Covid-19 from both Moderna and Pfizer/ BioNTech.”

However, Dublin GP and AMI spokesperson Dr Kieran Harkin  raised concerns over future access to the vaccines. He was speaking before news broke of  breakthrough developments with the Oxford, UK/ AstraZeneca vaccine.

“The big question now  is whether or not we will learn lessons from the HIV epidemic in the 1980s and 90s when higher income countries allowed  millions of people living in developing countries  to die without access to HIV treatments,” Dr Harkin told MI.

Dr Harkin said the best way to ensure fair distribution and access is by  “pharmaceutical companies such as Moderna and  Pfizer/BioNTech sharing the vaccine with the WHO’s global pool …the C-TAP initiative,  so that the technological know-how and intellectual property  rights related to the vaccine are shared to enable as many companies to produce it, as fast as possible.”

Last month WHO Executive Director Dr Mike Ryan, told this newspaper that “more and more we can recognise in situations like this globally, that there is certain things that are global public health goods.  We do need to have the exchange of intellectual property and other things that allows the rapid production and innovation that is needed.”

“I think we have seen huge progress, but I definitely think we could see more support for the C-TAP initiative now and going forward.”

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