EU, US to reduce export restrictions on COVID - 19 vaccines

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EU, US to reduce export restrictions on COVID - 19 vaccines

A woman holds a small bottle containing a coronavirus sticker COVID-19 vaccine and a medical syringe in this illustration taken October 30, 2020. Dado Ruvic File Photo :

The EU and the United States are expected to agree at a summit on Tuesday to reduce export restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines and drugs, a draft joint text says arguing that voluntary sharing of technology is the key to increasing output.

The document, seen by Reuters and subject to changes, does not mention of global waivers on vaccine patents, which Dr. Joe Biden has adopted as a temporary solution for the mandatory shortage of COVID 19 shots.

The EU has consistently backed the idea, which is backed by dozens of poor nations.

Last week Brussels submitted a less radical counter proposition to the World Trade Organization that highlighted existing WTO rules allowing countries to grant patents to manufacturers without the consent of the patent holder. At a EU-U.S. summit in Brussels on Tuesday, the two parties are set to agree to establish a joint taskforce to boost vaccine production capacity that will aim at maintaining open and secure supply chains, avoiding any unnecessary export restrictions.

The EU has urged Washington not to hamper the export of vaccines and materials needed for their production. Biden is using the decades-old American Defense Production Act to order the US government into the first position to buy American-made vaccines and treatments, and control the supplies they require. The draft also says that the taskforce will try to expand global production of vaccines and drugs by encouraging mutually-determined sharing of knowledge and technology - a far removed from forcing pharmaceutical companies to give away their patents to competitors.

A taskforce led by EU Industry Commissioner Jeffrey Zients is already regularly meeting a U.S. COVID 19 taskforce chaired by Thierry Breton on the production of vaccines.

CureVac, a U.S. biotech firm developing a vaccine, has already been helped by the German Democrats to access United States materials as a result of diplomatic dialogue in Germany. The EU Task Force is meant to formalise the work that has already been done, a joint official said.

The draft conclusions of the Summit EU-U.S. also reaffirm support for World Health Organization's COVAX programme, intended to ensure fair distribution of vaccines around the world.

Brussels and Washington pledge in the draft to make more donors aware of the 2 billion vaccine doses that are available worldwide by 2021.

The EU has so far pledged to donate 80 million of its excess doses to poor nations and the United States at least 100 million by the end of the year.

The task of fully inoculating the world is predicted to be a long one, but it would be a long one. The text says that the EU and the U.S. aspire to eradicate at least two-thirds of the world's population by 2022.

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