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Covid-19 Vaccines: Global Access

Volume 716: debated on Thursday 16 June 2022

11. What steps her Department plans to take to help secure an agreement at the World Trade Organisation on ensuring global access to covid-19 vaccines. (900501)

Negotiations on the response to the covid-19 pandemic are taking place at the World Trade Organisation’s 12th ministerial conference this week. Although I cannot comment on live negotiations—and they are very live today—the UK is seeking a comprehensive multilateral declaration addressing the trade policy issues that will make a real difference to global access to vaccines.

I would like to have my say! Thank you, Mr Speaker.

I think there is broad agreement across the House that the world will not fully defeat covid until its vaccination levels are the same as those we have been very fortunate to get through the NHS. Will the Minister go further and give more detail on what we are asking for in those negotiations? She was quite brief in what she said.

The right hon. Lady’s question is very timely. The negotiations are going on as we speak, so I do not want to comment on those live negotiations. She will know that we firmly believe that having strong intellectual property rights is key to ensuring that investment is going into the science base and that these products and vaccines will continue to be developed. We need that to happen, as well as to ensure that there is equity and that the world can make use of these amazing products.

Perhaps the reason that the Minister of State does not want to give any more detail is that in Geneva this week the Secretary of State has actually been leading efforts to water down or block any deal on access to covid medicines. I gently ask the Minister of State this: with so few people in developing countries having had their first covid vaccine, why are Ministers so determined to prevent some of the richest companies across the globe from giving the poorest people in the world the tools they need to stop transmission and save lives?

That is a ridiculous mischaracterisation of this country’s stance. We are one of the largest donors to the covid advance market commitment, which is ensuring that the vaccine is being rolled out in 92 developing countries. We are at the forefront of that effort. What the Secretary of State is trying to do is ensure that investment in the science base that created these vaccines remains strong. We need to do both of those things if we are going to vaccinate the world.