Berlin / Porto (dpa) – The federal government is skeptical about the release of vaccine patents in the global fight against the corona crisis. Spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer confirmed this on Friday.
Other EU countries such as Poland, Italy or France and the EU Commission are more open to the approach of US President Joe Biden. The 27 EU states wanted to look for a common line on the sidelines of the EU social summit in Porto on Friday evening.
Surprisingly, Biden and his government had backed the demands of poorer countries, calling for a temporary lifting of patent protection for Covid-19 vaccines. Then manufacturers around the world could produce the vaccines without paying licensing fees to developers such as Biontech / Pfizer and Moderna. The background to this is the acute shortage of vaccines in many countries around the world.
However, an agreement in the World Trade Organization would have to be reached first for approval. To this end, the EU states should give the Commission a negotiating mandate. It was said by EU circles that protracted international negotiations were unlikely to bring the quick solution that was now needed.
Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) said in Berlin: “The main issue is not the issue of patents.” This is the question of production capabilities. “Producing mRNA vaccines in particular is not something you can do with a permit in a factory somewhere.” It is about technology transfer, which can be done better in collaboration. In view of the actual availability issue, Spahn said he would be happy if the US changed their previous policies and, like the EU, released the produced cans for export. Spahn also warned that researchers’ rights should also be at the center of attention.
Deputy government spokeswoman Demmer also said that delivering vaccines to the world is a major concern of the federal government. However, the lack of production capacity is seen as a limiting factor and not the release of patents. This is also the position of Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU).
However, there were several nuances in the federal government. Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas was more open to weakening patent protection. “If that’s a way of getting more people to get vaccines faster, then that’s a question we need to ask ourselves,” said the SPD politician. Development Minister Gerd Müller (CSU), on the other hand, said in “Spiegel”: “Just the release of a patent does not result in any additional vaccination box.”
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, had shown an openness to a debate on the American initiative. Her spokeswoman Dana Spinant emphasized on Friday that the committee also sees the solution to the vaccine shortage in building production capacities. We’re working with industry on this, Spinant said.
Barriers to the supply of vaccines, according to EU officials, include replenishment of raw materials and aids such as filters or glass vials. Until now, the focus has been on solving this problem. However, there is no evidence that patents limit production.
The patent issue will be discussed at a dinner of the heads of state or government at the informal EU summit in Porto on Friday. Before leaving for Portugal, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki supported the release of the patent. “It is necessary to eradicate the epidemic from all over the world.” Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio also expressed his approval. French President Emmanuel Macron did the same on Thursday.
In Germany, the Greens, among others, are campaigning for the release of patents. The left put the proposal to the vote in the Bundestag on Thursday. Apparently there was a strange misunderstanding. The CDU MP and Federal Economy Minister, Peter Altmaier, was the only one in his parliamentary group to vote in favor of the patent’s release. Altmaier spoke about an error on Twitter on Friday morning. “I share my group’s unanimous position on this issue.” In principle, he rejects requests from the links.