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RCSI calls for TRIPS waiver to provide equal access to Covid-19 vaccines

The RCSI is calling on the Irish Government to support the TRIPS waiver 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 and postgraduate training body in Ireland to support the call for the TRIPS Waiver which would enable generic production of medicines and provide low- and middle-income countries with access to Covid-19 vaccines and other treatments.

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

The TRIPS waiver was first proposed by India and South Africa in 2020 to temporarily remove intellectual property rights for health technologies needed to prevent, contain, or treat Covid-19, until vaccine equity could be achieved. The waiver is now supported by approximately 100 nations but continues to be opposed by some states, including EU member states.

Dr Debbi Stanistreet, Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, RCSI said: “As it stands, 75% of those in high-income countries have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, compared to only 7% in low-income countries. These countries have fragile health infrastructures and weak economies and are unable to sustain the increased pressure caused by the pandemic. Resources are being diverted from other important areas such as HIV and malaria prevention 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 and 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, that would pave 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.”

On 30 November, the People’s Vaccine Alliance in Ireland, including the group Doctors for Vaccine Equity, staged a protest at Leinster House on the issue of vaccine equity.

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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