Acrimony against patent waiver backdrop

Gov’t and main opposition cross swords in the wake of US proposal on Covid-19 vaccines

Acrimony against patent waiver backdrop

The US-backed proposal for a waiver on the patents for Covid-19 vaccines sparked acrimonious exchanges between the government and main opposition SYRIZA Thursday.

As soon as the US proposal became known late on Wednesday, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras accused Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in a Facebook post of being negative on the issue when it was first raised in Parliament earlier in the year. 

“When I asked Mr Mitsotakis in January to take a European initiative to lift the patent on vaccines, he mocked me in Parliament, accusing me of wanting to abolish the free market with a law and an article,” Tsipras wrote.

In response, government spokeswoman Aristotelia Peloni told Parapolitika radio said that what Tsipras proposed was one thing and what the Americans said was another. Tsipras was talking about the production of the vaccine in Greece, she said, and Mitstotakis had responded that companies cannot be nationalized to produce the vaccine. 

“The US president’s proposal addresses the need to meet the needs of countries such as India and those in Africa that have low access to vaccines,” said Peloni, also recalling that as early as April 2020, Mitsotakis and Elias Mosialos, professor of health policy at the London School of Economics and director of LSE Health, published an article in Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper proposing the use of patents as a global asset, to facilitate the distribution of vaccines.

Government sources further noted that from June there will be a surplus of vaccines throughout the West and the issue of the patents, which was “correctly raised” by the US, concerns the world population. The same sources also called on the main opposition party to stop its “negative opposition to everything” and contribute to the vaccination campaign in order to convince everyone to get inoculated.

SYRIZA, however, insisted that the government was making “a mockery of itself” over the patents issue. It called on the government and Mitsotakis “to find the courage, albeit belatedly, to acknowledge their mistake and submit a formal proposal to the Commission to waive the patent rights.”

It also asked what initiatives the PM had taken since his article on vaccines in the German paper last year. “Having supported this proposal, what exactly did he do over the last six months and what initiative did he take for the waiving of patents in international forums and in the EU?”

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