Written answers

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Departmental Meetings

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, Independents 4 Change)
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226. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the details of any meetings which he or his officials have had with representatives of the pharmaceutical industry or pharmaceutical companies since 1 May 2020, at which the WHO C-TAP initiative was discussed; the names and positions of those present; the content of the discussion relating to C-TAP and any actions taken; and the documents prepared by him or Departmental officials on foot of the discussion. [49766/21]

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, Independents 4 Change)
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227. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the details of any meetings which he or officials of his Department have had with representatives of the pharmaceutical industry or of pharmaceutical companies since 1 October 2021, at which the Covid-19 waiver proposed at the WTO Council on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights were discussed; the names and positions of those present; the actions taken; and the documents prepared by him or Departmental officials on foot of such discussion. [49771/21]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 226 and 227 together.

The sharing of technology on vaccines, diagnostics and treatment, is an important part of a broader suite of responses to COVID-19. Ireland has consistently championed collaborative responses to the pandemic, with a focus on ensuring that the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable are served by our collective effort.

Ireland has welcomed the WHO-led Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) as an important initiative. It has the potential to facilitate pooled rights to technologies that can be used for the detection, prevention, control and treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the arrangement, owners of intellectual property (IP) and other forms of knowledge, data and skills relevant for the development and manufacture of tests, equipment, therapeutics and vaccines would make these available, voluntarily, and to facilitate the expansion of production.

Neither I nor officials in my Department have met with representatives from the pharmaceutical industry or pharmaceutical companies to discuss the C-TAP initiative or the Covid-19 waiver proposed at the WTO Council on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights. The European Commission, on behalf of Member States, has been engaging with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to obtain the additional information and clarifications required for industry to engage in the initiative, with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment the lead Department on trade issues. A well-functioning system for the protection, enforcement, and appropriate sharing of intellectual property rights is an important incentive for the research and development of vaccines, medicines and equipment. Ireland, through the EU, will remain open to identifying innovative ways to support these aims, as part of our comprehensive response to the global challenge.

Ireland has shown support for sharing COVID-19 related knowledge and research outputs in a number of ways. This includes engagement in the National Open Research Forum, and the granting of non-exclusive royalty-free licenses through Knowledge Transfer Ireland. It includes Science Foundation Ireland’s alignment with Plan S, an initiative to ensure publicly funded research is openly available, immediately, without embargo for the betterment of societal needs. We have also support the World Health Organization (WHO), the Global Vaccine Alliance and the Global Fund, to develop, produce and equitably distribute effective technologies in the COVID-19 global response.

In 2021, Ireland has allocated €100 million in support of Global Health activities, including the COVID-19 response. My Department works with relevant multilateral agencies to support health systems (including the COVID-19 response) and ensuring attention is sustained to other diseases. To promote equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for low and middle income countries, I have allocated €7 million in support of COVAX (the global Covid-19 vaccine facility), and supported the WHO role in ensuring equity and fairness in the process. Ireland has recently donated 335,500 vaccines to Uganda and is in the process of donating a further million through the COVAX facility.

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