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Vaccine makers defend patent rights, oppose export bans before EU lawmakers

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Feb 25 (Reuters) - Makers of COVID-19 vaccines on Thursday defended their rights over patents before the European Parliament and opposed export bans saying that would slow down production.

The company executives were replying to questions from lawmakers who asked if giving up patents to vaccines, which are partly public funded, would help increase production.

"It was because of a strong patent system that we were even able to manufacture and develop this vaccine in the first place," Angela Hwang, Pfizer Inc president for global biopharma, told EU lawmakers in a public hearing.

With new variants of the coronavirus emerging, Hwang said the company needs to continue its research and ensure the intellectual property network is strong. Pfizer also opposed export bans saying vaccine production depends on open trade channels.

To a query by the lawmakers on whether technology transfer was a possible way to increase production, Johnson & Johnson chief scientific officer, Paul Stoffels, said it would not be useful in the short term as any transfer was likely to take up to two years before companies are able to produce the vaccine.

J&J said it was confident of meeting its 2021 commitment of delivering 200 million doses to the European Union.

Earlier in the day, AstraZeneca boss Pascal Soriot, under fire for delays in supplies, said the drugmaker expects to meet the EU's expectations on the number of COVID-19 vaccines that it can deliver in the second quarter. (Reporting by Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Editing by Arun Koyyur)