Speech of George Katrougkalos in the debate on Preventing vaccine discrimination (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, 14/10/2022)


Many thanks, Madam Chair,

I would like to begin by congratulating the rapporteur on a very balanced and pertinent report. It was not an easy issue. The fundamental rule is established in the Oviedo Convention on Bioethics. We are the masters of our bodies. Nobody can impose to us any kind of medical act without our informed consent and vaccination is a medical act. It was not easy to find a compromise – a balanced compromise – between this rule and the necessity of protecting public health in times of the pandemic.

We dealt with that in the European Union and in the Council of Europe, I think, generally well, with problems related to the protection of some very crucial individual rights, like the right of assembly and sometimes the right to privacy. I think that the remarks and recommendations of the report are very pertinent in that. I must also note, it is noted in the report that we had also problems with the management of the vaccines, basically due to the fact that only six vaccines have been recognised by the European medical organisation, the EMA, which resulted in problems, especially in countries outside the European Union, for instance, in San Marino they did not have access to vaccines until they managed to have some Russian Sputnik vaccines.

But I would like to note something that was actually out of the scope of the report, at least as the rapporteur understood it, and, in my understanding, is the biggest, the greatest, factor of discrimination. This is poverty, not so much within our societies, as the vaccine has been distributed through the universal health systems, but between rich and wealthy countries. Look at the numbers: just 10 countries account for more than 75% of all vaccines administered globally, but Africa, the second most populated continent, the second biggest continent, corresponds with just 3.4% of the vaccines.

In the first resolution of ours, we stress the fact of the waiver for the patent, so that the vaccine could reach everybody. We must insist on that for reasons of global justice. And I think it is a disgrace that the European Union is not supporting this demand, both are the wealthiest organisations under the World Trade Organization.

Many thanks, Madam Chair.