Distributive policy

Ireland’s role in EU vaccine access policy

Ireland is justly proud of the contribution made by its scientists to the global stock of knowledge and to the global quest for safety, security and stability. This week alone, Science Foundation Ireland celebrated the achievements of 5,700 IFC-supported international academic research partnerships in 84 countries and another 1,500 collaborations with industrial companies overseas.

That’s a lot of smarts at work and it underscores our country’s accomplishments in punching above our weight when funding is doled out. As Ciarán Seoighe of SFI notes, “We are in the upper echelons of European countries in terms of our success rate. One of the things we see now is the mission-oriented approach in Europe. We all have the same problems related to climate, health, etc., and this approach will help us pool our knowledge and research talents to find solutions.

It is true that the challenges are common. True, too, that for every high there is a low. And it’s disappointing to note criticism of Ireland’s stance on expanding access to vaccines during the Covid pandemic stemming from an investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Politico.

They said that Ireland, in line with general EU policy, had helped form the strongest resistance to sweeping plans to waive intellectual property rights which would have potentially given poorer countries better access to vaccines. Calls for change were led by India and Brazil and backed by the US, but fell on stony ground within the EU following, according to the report, lobbying by pharmaceutical companies to “water them down”. “.

“Germany has been a huge driving force behind the EU position – its outright opposition to a waiver has been consistently supported by countries like Ireland, Sweden and Denmark in the Trade Policy Committee,” says he. “These three countries are also home to significant pharmaceutical industries: Ireland is the EU’s largest net exporter of pharmaceuticals.” Journalists discovered that at least 31 private consultancies were employed to lobby the European Commission on behalf of industry.

Although we still don’t know much about the environment and context in which decisions were made by companies and governments at the height of the crisis, it is still inevitable that information will emerge at random based on the activities of activists, journalists, and whistleblowers.

a million lives

Last week, mathematical models drawn from 152 countries emerged estimating that more than a million lives could have been saved if Covid-19 vaccines had been shared more equitably with low-income countries in 2021.

Nearly half of the world’s population has received at least two inoculations and in many advanced countries groups considered at risk are on their third and fourth doses, but in some poor countries less than 2% of the population has been immune. Surpluses of vaccines exist. Simultaneously, so does the supply shortage. The overlooked truth is that as long as vaccination rates are uneven, the potential for an emerging variant remains, bringing with it potential economic disruption which, as we are currently experiencing, can produce financial chaos.

As we wrote nearly two years ago, in addition to the moral imperative, ensuring more equitable access and greater distribution of Covid-19 vaccines is in our financial and broader interests. This lesson may need to be reinforced before a new toll is taken from global economies.